Toward the end of winter on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday the people of Ashbourne gather in the center of their town to renew the longest running sports rivalry on earth. The game is called Shrovetide Football and originates from two medieval communities living opposite the river Henmore. Today, they are known as the Up’ards and Down’ards..

Each team consists of hundreds if not thousands of people. The field of play...the town itself. There is no referee and few rules. Each game begins at 2pm and ends at 10pm. The ball cannot be carried in motorized transport. Cemeteries, churchyards and memorials are out of bounds. Under no circumstances is manslaughter to be tolerated..

The object of the game is simple: Get a 4-pound ball to one of 2 goals that lay 3 miles apart..

For the past 1000 years, Kings, Revolutions and Wars have tried to stop this ancient tradition. Against all odds, a passionate community has kept alive a meaning of life, not valued in pounds or dollars but in sportsmanship and friendship of the game..

For the past 10 years the "posh" Up'ards have dominated every contest. As the "dirty" Down'ards prepare for revenge, both teams will have to fight an additional foe; modern society.

1 min 0 sec


Posted On
January 11, 2012
Peter Baxter

Peter Baxter


April 23, 2013
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