THE Atherstone Ball Game, based on a medieval tradition, sees hundreds of people trying to be the last man holding a ball after two hours of mayhem.
The yearly event has been known to erupt into violence — here we look at the rules and prizes on offer.
The Atherstone Ball Game is popular every year despite there being no big cash prizeJoe Giddens/PA Wire
When is the Atherstone Ball Game on?
Every year the Atherstone Ball Game takes place on Shrove Tuesday in the Warwickshire town of Atherstone, commencing at 3pm.
This means the 2024 event will be held on Tuesday, February 13.
We will be using drone and CCTV footage to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who decides to commit criminal violence
Local police on the 2024 Atherstone Ball Game
The very first Atherstone Ball Game is said to have been held in 1199, with competitors using a bag of gold as a football.
Former Coventry City footballers Dave Bennett and Kirk Stephens launched the 2020 game.
Are there any rules in the Atherstone Ball Game?
There are a few restrictions in the Atherstone Ball Game — but it is largely a free-for-all.
One rule is that the game is only allowed to be played on Atherstone’s Long Street.
The second rule is that participants are not allowed to kill anyone.
Other than that, players can do what they want to win the game, with punches and bloody noses a regular occurrence.
The game ends at 5pm, with whoever is holding that ball at that time declared the winner.
Shops in the town are boarded up in preparation for the Atherstone Ball Game, as it has been known to end in brawls and mayhem due to the lack of rules.
Local children are allowed to leave school early on the day the event is held, and are also treated to sweets and pennies ahead of the game.
What prize money can you win at the Atherstone Ball Game?
Despite the brutality of the game, there is no grand cash prize for the winners of the Atherstone Ball Game.
There is a monetary prize of £10 for the players who manage to get their hands on one of the four ribbons tied to the ball.
A gold coin is also thrown into the crowd ahead of the match, with whoever finds it being awarded a small prize.
The main prize, however, is the actual ball itself, which weighs four pounds and is filled with water to weigh it down.
Who has won the Atherstone Ball Game in the past?
Kieran Marshall, Lewis Cooper and Scott Wright were crowned the winners of the Atherstone Ball Game 2023 after competing as a team.
A man named Josh Sheldon won in 2022, making him the first winner of the decade as the 2020 game was called off due to a marshall falling ill, while the 2021 game was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Jonathan Slesser has won four times in the past.
Has anyone died competing in the Atherstone Ball Game?
Nobody has died competing in the Atherstone Ball Game, but there have been serious injuries suffered by players and those involved in the event.
In 2019 someone’s ear was reportedly ripped off — following players trading punches while attempting to secure the ball.
During the 2020 edition a marshal required medical treatment, and was subsequently airlifted to hospital after taking ill.
In 2023 yobs were filmed gouging people’s eyes and stamping on each other as a brawl broke out at the annual event.
According to Coventry Live, local police posted on their Facebook page: “Both during and after the Game, we will be using drone and CCTV footage to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who decides to commit criminal violence.
“Don’t be the reason Atherstone loses the Ball Game.”