Although the event is described as football, the term is only really applicable to the aims of the contest. The execution owes much more to modern day rugby than the Beautiful Game as practiced by Barcelona or even Stoke.
The game takes place in Ashbourne, just on the wrong side of the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border, on a pitch that comprises of most of the town's public areas, where the goals are situated three miles apart, each in a river. The two teams, the Up'ards or the Down'ards are decided by which side of the Henmore brooke a player was born or lives.
The ball is thrown or "turned up" to the mass of players, by a local worthy or occasionally a member of the royal family from a plinth in the Shaw Croft car park. The ball then usually disappears from view for most of the match, consumed in a "hug" that more resembles a rugby maul and with no instruction to "use it or lose it" progress can be extremely slow as each side attempts to wrestle the ball towards their intended goal.
Despite the longevity of the duration of the game, goals are relatively rare, so much so that any scorer gets to keep the ball and another one may be turned up. Much of the action takes place under cover of darkness and inside the hug, while the "runners" are ready to make good any opportunity provided by the engine room of each side.
Spectators can get as close to the action as they wish, but should the ball pop out they'd be well advised to run!
|Wrong place, wrong time.|
|Groundsman in despair.|
|The goal's a mile that way.|