A break with tradition

AN ancient game which was being played long before the modern Olympics started has decided to give a nod of approval to the coming national celebrations.

At their annual meeting, members of the Alnwick Shrove Football management committee agreed that as a one-off gesture they are to increase the prizes paid for hales when the annual game takes place on Tuesday. February 21.

Chairman Tom Pickard said: “As it was a double celebration with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee we decided to make this decision.

“The first two hales will be awarded £15 instead of £10 and the winning or conquering hale £30 instead of £20.

“Tradition is deeply ingrained in the members and it is only in unusual circumstances that changes are made.”

At the meeting, members received and accepted a 12.30pm invitation from St Cloud University to enjoy pancakes in the castle before the match.

The annual Shrove Tuesday match has been going on in the Pastures since 1828, with an occasional break.

In recent times only war and foot-and-mouth have prevented it from taking place.

The game used to be played through the streets of Alnwick. Because of the damage and interruption to trade, town traders eventually petitioned the then Duke and the game was moved to the Pastures.

The committee’s patron, the Duke of Northumberland, has agreed to throw this year’s match ball from the Barbican of Alnwick Castle to be caught by the chairman and then all will march down the Peth for the match.

The game is played on a pitch a quarter of a mile long with goals or hales just over four feet wide and 10 feet high. It is split into two halves of 45 minutes each.

The game is controlled by a trumpeter, umpires and 13 linesmen. There is no referee on the field.

It is played by tradition between the parishes of St Michael’s and St Paul’s.

There is no limit to the number of players involved or on age and sex.

Again by tradition, the celebrations end with the match ball being kicked towards the river and the first person to get it to the far side keeps it.

Officials then retire to the John Bull for refreshments and toasts to the Queen, the Duke and his piper and the lads and lasses of Alnwick.

Officials re-elected at the annual meeting were chairman Tom Pickard, vice chairman Eric Hately, treasurer Peter Smith and secretary Bob Bingham.