Royal Shrovetide Football is damn knackering. There seems
to be a lot of big rugby guys participating in the event
- they have the necessary strength and physique to cope
with the hammering. If you are not in shape - do not participate
because you'll just get injured or be a liability. If
you want to assist your team offer to buy some of the
players a beer afterwards.
Will: Its a good
idea to make / update your Will before you set off. See
our donation section.
you have a good pair of work boots which will provide
good traction on a mixture of surfaces (in both wet and
dry conditions). Jeans are popular since you may find
yourself laying on the pavement during pile-ups (try to
help fallen players onto their feet immediately). Some
guys wear wetsuits as their base layer so that they can
spend prolonged periods of time in the river. Rugby shits
are strong enough to cope with the play and it can get
cold at 10:00 p.m. so wear a few layers. Bring a change
of clothes in case you end up in the river. Don't carry
Watch first: it
is a good idea to be a spectator before you consider taking
part. The players don't wear uniforms and so you'll need
to know some of the key players to be able to easily identify
who your team mates are.
your transport out in advance. Organise a driver because
a) the game is so physical you'll be too knacked to drive
home, and b) it means you can enjoy the pub after the
On Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday:
Arrive in Ashbourne early.
Meet up with the players in the pub before hand and ask
their advice and what to look out for. The local Ashbourne
people I met were a really fun bunch and they were very
Be at Shaw Croft car park
before 2:00 p.m. where the ball will 'Turned-up' and the
Don't get into 'The Hug'.
This is the big scrum area near the ball and its where
the guys are doing the real work. Its crammed with big
guys and there is some serious rib cracking style pushing
Help others push 'he hug'
in the direction of the goal. If you are a Down'ard (i.e.
from the south side of the Henmore River) you'll be pushing
towards Clifton Mill. Uppard's are from the North side
of the Henmore River and they will be trying to score
in Sturton Mill. There is excellent comradeship between
the teams. Keep an eye on the movement of 'the Hug' as
it can easily get turned. Listen out for your team mates
orders and push in the direction they ask.
If you find yourself in
'the Hug' protect your ribs by holding your forearms close
to your ribs with your hands approximately level with
your collar bones. Push like hell, and be prepared for
prolonged periods of time where you won't be able to inhale.
If you are small (like me) you may find that your neck/wind
pipe gets squashed against someone's shoulder and there
is not a lot you can do about it, so be cautious.
Be on the look out for
obstacles. Its easy to be tripped up when pushing 'the
Hug' over curbs, small walls, and uneven terrain. If you
see fallen players it is important to help them to their
feet ASAP or a serious pile-up can occur (not good).
Move to the sidelines
(well away from play) when you get tired to let some fresh
players take over. Its a very long game and you'll need
to pace yourself.
If 'the Hug' is moving
towards a glass shop front take action. Help redirect
'the Hug' away from the hazzard.
After the game:
the pubs will be going full tilt. Its a great time to
have a few pints with your team mates and compare injuries.
Todd O'Neill (editor)