In Pictures: Hundreds gather for first day of Shrovetide football match
There are few rules, but players are not allowed to enter cemeteries or churchyards and, reassuringly, killing people on purpose is also not allowed.
Hundreds of people gathered in Derbyshire on Tuesday to play, or watch, a relatively lawless, rugby-football hybrid extravaganza, where players try to get the ball to goals that are three miles apart.
The teams in the Royal Shrovetide football match in Ashbourne are dictated by where players were born, or live.
You’re an Up’Ard if you’re from north of Henmore Brook, or one of the Down’Ards if you were born south of it.
Th match begins when someone – this year Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Willie Tucker – chucks a cork-filled ball into a crowd from a permanent plinth in the town’s main car park at 2pm on Shrove Tuesday, known as “turning-up”.
After that, players try to get the ball to their goal by pretty much any means necessary.
The game can last until 10pm over two days.
There are very few rules. Although it’s nicknamed football, none of the familiar traditions of that sport apply.
The ball can be kicked, but it rarely is. Usually it is carried or thrown between dozens of people trying to get their goal.
The goals themselves are three miles apart, and both are in the river that runs through Ashbourne, Henmore Brook.
Potential scorers have to jump in to hit the ball on their respective scoring post three times to score.
The town centre shops have closed for the duration of the match, with windows boarded up.
The Ashbourne game is suspected to have been played since 1667.
It got its royal title after Edward VIII, who was then Prince of Wales, opened the game in 1928.
But more recently, the Prince of Wales threw the ball into the crowd to start 2003’s match.
The goals, which players must hit three times to score, used to be mills either side of the town.
They’ve since been demolished, and in the 90s purpose-built goals using some of the original millstones were erected in Henmore Brook.
There are no limits to the teams’ sizes though, and visitors to the area make up the numbers too.
However, it would be pretty unusual for a non-local to score – that’s usually decided ahead of time by key local players as the ball makes its way to the goal.