It’s the beautiful game, but not quite as you know it

The annual shrovetide football game in the pastures below Alnwick Castle.
The annual shrovetide football game in the pastures below Alnwick Castle.

Brutal tackles, masses of players on each side and a furlong-length pitch complete with puddles, mud and maybe even a few molehills.

It can only mean one thing – Shrovetide Football.

Alnwick’s take on the beautiful game kicks off on Tuesday.

The annual clash, which dates back centuries, pits the parish of St Michael against those from St Paul.

Steeped in tradition, the fixture begins at 2pm at the Barbican of Alnwick Castle when the ball will be dropped into the arms of the Shrovetide committee chairman.

Then, players and onlookers walk down to the match field, led by the Duke’s piper.

Battle commences at 2.15pm, as the hardy souls, of all shapes, sizes and ages, try to score goals, known as hales.

The game is played in two periods of 30 minutes. If the score is even, there is a final period of 45 minutes. The period ends immediately after a hale is confirmed.

Prizes of £10 will be awarded to the scorer of the first and second hales and £20 to the winner of the third or conquering one.

Up to 20 prizes of £2 will be awarded in recognition of good play.

After the clash, which often features American students from St Cloud State University who are studying at Alnwick Castle, the ball is kicked into the River Aln, prompting a mad scramble for it in the water.

Not for the faint-hearted, the town fixture is an historic one, with the earliest recorded match taking place in the streets in 1762.

The first game to be played in the Pastures was in the 1820s.

Last year, bragging rights went to St Paul’s after local lad Lee Pattinson scored both hales.