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Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009
The history of Royal Ashbourne Shrovetide Football

Ashbourne Shrovetide Football Game 2009

The Shrovetide football game is as old as the hills and has been played for centuries - possibly for more than 1,000 years.

Its origins have been lost in the midst of time after a fire at the Shrovetide Committee office in the 1890s.

The earliest surviving reference to the game is from 1683 when Charles Cotton (who penned the fly-fishing supplement for Izaac Walton's 'The Compleat Angler') wrote about it.

There are many versions as to the true origins of the game - but the most popular seems to be the theory that the 'ball' was originally a head tossed into the waiting crowd following an execution.

Prince Charles starts the Ashbounr Shrovetide Football Game
HRH The Prince of Wales (1928, 2003)
Sir Stanley Matthews (1966)
Brian Clough (1975)
Roy McFarland (1982)

There have also been several attempts to ban the game - the most famous being in 1349 when Edward III tried to outlaw it as he claimed it interfered with his archery practice!

And in 1878 the game was briefly banned after a man drowned in the Henmore. Local land-owners signed petitions and refused to let the game take place on their properties.

The game has received true 'Royal Assent' only twice - in 1928 the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, turned up the ball. This is when the event officially earned the designation Royal Shrovetide Football.

Later, in 2003, HRH Prince Charles turned up the ball. He had agreed to start the game for the two previous years but had to cancel due to the death of his aunt, Princess Maragaret, and Foot-and-Mouth, which forced the cancellation of the game.

Records show that 1943 was the first year in which the ball was goaled by a woman. Doris Mugglestone goaled for the Up'ards and Doris Sowter goaled for the Down'ards - both on Ash Wednesday.

The game is played every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and consists of two teams.

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