Will Shrovetide Football ever be banned?

"Shrovetide Football can never be banned," says former player after reports that it has become too violent due to outsiders playing the historic Ashbourne game

Players during the Royal Shrovetide Football match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. (Credit: PA)

Former Shrovetide footballer James Horrobin has defended the game after calls for it to be banned.

After this year’s event in which there were a number of injuries there have been calls for the game to be stopped.

Organisers fear that because so many outsiders play, local knowledge on how to play the game is being lost.

This is leading the game to become more dangerous because some of the traditional rules are being ignored.

Farrier James, aged 34, who played the game four times before moving out of the area said he believed the game would not be banned despite the controversy.

James Horrobin who played Ashbourne Shrovetide Football for four years says the ancient game will never be banned.

“The people of Ashbourne need this game, it will never be banned in my opinion as it’s been a tradition since the 12th century and for that to all stop now, would ruin generations of history,” he said.

“The only way it will be taken away from them, is if they ruin it for themselves.”

James added that in recent years, the game had slightly lost it roots with the inclusion of players from outside the Ashbourne area.

Traditionally, the game was played between the locals from Ashbourne and whichever side of the river you were born on, determined if you are a Up’ard or Down’ard.

But James said some of the localness of the game had been lost.

He said: “People come from all over now to play and that’s not accepted by the locals. It isn’t seen as a two-day event for these people, serious players will train for the whole year just to get their hands on the ball for five seconds!

 “It’s something that the town is so proud of. However, unfortunately some people see it as a big fight and when people outside of the town come with that mindset, it will ruin it for everyone.”

Up for Grabs! Shrovetide Football should not be banned says former player James Horrobin. Video By Sam Ward

Although James was not born in the Ashbourne area and only briefly lived in the town, he said that the Up’ard community accepted him for four years.

“I had had a girlfriend so I lived up this way [Ashbourne] for over three years and at first, it was daunting thought to try and get involved.

“After being briefed on the history of this game from people in the local area, I knew how much it meant to them.

“Children grow up watching their fathers, brothers and uncles play the game and for a kid round the area, it’s all they ever dream of.”

This year’s game ended in a draw as both teams scored on Tuesday and Wednesday.