Coronavirus restrictions halt traditional Shrove Tuesday games

Traditional Shrove Tuesday games which have been played for centuries have been called off due to coronavirus restrictions.

For almost 1,000 years, scores of young men from Sedgefield and surrounding County Durham villages have gathered to grapple for a small leather ball in a game which has few rules but many conventions – including a free drink for the first player to take the ball into a local pub.

In a normal year, hundreds of people would line the streets to watch the rough and tumble, with Durham Police officers keeping an eye on proceedings.

Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday

But the organisers have said it cannot take place this year and urged people to stay away.

And the Shrove Tuesday football match in Alnwick, Northumberland, has also been cancelled.

Before 1828 it was played in the town streets and since then it has been enacted on pastures below Alnwick Castle, with games started by the Duke of Northumberland dropping the ball from the battlements.

In the past century it has been cancelled due to world wars, foot and mouth disease in 2001 and on six occasions due to bad weather.

The Sedgefield organisers said in a statement: “In the future, the Ball Game will return with all of its history, energy and excitement, but this year, please stay at home.”