Shrovetide football set for kick-off

Action from last year's Shrovetide football match in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman
Action from last year's Shrovetide football match in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

It’s a sporting spectacle unlike any other, with very few rules, no-holds-barred tackling, a furlong-in-length pitch and plenty of divots, bumps and mud.

And on Tuesday, Alnwick’s annual Shrovetide football match once again kicks off in the town, for another instalment of the action-packed fixture.

The ancient game is played between the parishes of St Michael and St Paul and takes place in the Pastures, in the shadow of Alnwick Castle.

The spectacle begins at 2pm, when the ball is dropped from the castle’s Barbican. This year, the honours will be performed by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s daughter, Lady Catherine.

Led by the Duke’s piper, the players and spectators then march down The Peth to the match field.

The game is played in two periods of 30 minutes each. If the score is then even, a final period of 45 minutes is played. A period is ended once a goal, known as a hale, is scored.

Prizes of £10 will be awarded to the scorer of the first and second hales, and £20 to the scorer of the third or conquering hale. Up to 20 prizes of £2 will be awarded in recognition of good play.

After the game, the ball is kicked into the River Aln, prompting a mad scramble in the water to reach it first and carry it to the opposite bank.

The parish of St Michael currently holds the bragging rights after a 2-0 victory last year. Lee Patinson and Robbie Coxford were the goal-scoring heroes in the 2015 fixture.

The match is a historic one, with the first recorded game being played in Alnwick in 1762.

• Check back on Tuesday evening for a round-up of the game.