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>Royal Shrovetide Football - Tips which might be useful

Fitness: 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.

Equipment: Ensure 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 anything either.

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.

Transport: sort 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 game.


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 helpful.

Be at Shaw Croft car park before 2:00 p.m. where the ball will 'Turned-up' and the game started.

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 going on.

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:

Drink: the pubs will be going full tilt. Its a great time to have a few pints with your team mates and compare injuries.

Good luck

Todd O'Neill (editor)


Royal Shrovetide Football is primarily an event for the local Ashbourne community. If you are thinking about becoming involved in this historic event please respect Ashbourne Town, its inhabitants, the rules of the game and the other players. This is a very good natured event and long may it continue.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Royal Shrovetide Football is physically knackering, dangerous and damn good fun.

If you are mad keen to participate in this event you might find some of these tips helpful.

Pete Halls and Karl Webster have been participating in this event for years. During my first year they gave me the following advice...
  • Don't get in 'the Hug' (i.e. the area near the ball where its very physical)
  • Wear steel toe work boots (sturdy construction)
  • Wear shin pads (football type) your shins will get heavily bruised
  • Avoid getting in a pile up or you could have 60 guys on top of you
  • If you intend on going in the river wear a wetsuit - it gets cold at night
  • The game really gets interesting after 7 or 8 p.m. once the tourists leave.
  • The pubs are good fun after the game (if you last that long...)
Here are some more useful tips......

Before the event

Do some research: Before you set out do as much research about the event and Ashbourne as you can. If you show up on the day not knowing which team to support or where the goals are located you'll just be a liability to everyone involved. Know where the goals are located and build up a mental map of the streets.

Teams :'The Uppard's' those from the north side of the Henmore Brook - they move the ball towards the goal at Sturton Mill. 'The Downards' are from the south side of Henmore Brook and they move the ball towards the goal at Clifton Mill.
Following tradition, each team nominates a goal scorer before the game starts (it's a town honour type of thing which is cool). The ball will be passed to this person when it is near the goal.
Scoring: there are two stone monuments (one at Sturton Mill and one at Clifton Mill) and a goal is scored when a player taps the ball three times against one of them
2:00 p.m.: the ball is 'turned up' at Shaw Croft car park and the game starts
The ball is usually carried but it can be thrown or kicked. The use of motor vehicles to carry the ball is not allowed.
No murder or unnecessary violence - its a good natured event
If a goal is scored before 6:00 p.m. the ball is 'turned up' again and play will continue until no later than 10:00 p.m. A goal scored after 6:00 p.m. ends the game.


Ashbourne Shrovetide Football


What we learnt this time...  

When buying an old car as a donor the most important thing is how it drives and runs - the bodywork and most of the interior will be scrapped. If the car has an MOT and Tax you can run it for a while and get a feeling for the major mechanical bits. The kit uses the engine, gearbox and rear subframe so these need to be in good condition.

Remember that you are going to have to register the kit and having all the paperwork for the donor is a real bonus