We have a lot to thank the Americans and Sky TV for. They can take something that is dull and uninteresting and turn it into a three hour spectacle. Even the stately game of cricket has been given pizzazz with the 20:20 format and people watch it in their droves. I think the time may have come to revisit Shrovetide and bring it into the 21st Century…and here’s how.
1. Create a third goal. How many real Up’Ards and Down’Ards are there these days? all we need to do is create a third category – Out’Ards – and give them a goal (lets say up on the airfield). That would ensure more players with something to play for.
2. All that mud and rain is very unsightly – sometimes it makes it really difficult to work out who is playing for which side. What we need is an all-weather town with a clearly marked out pitch.
3. Too much happens under cover of darkness. What we really need is to either start the game earlier or play it when the days are longer – in the summer. The day could begin with a Shrovetide breakfast and showcase the excellent oatcakes and local produce.
4. The goals need a complete overhaul. In this day and age you could have something which lights up a different colour with each touch of the ball. On the third touch… fireworks
5. We are the only “Royal” Shrovetide and clearly the best but lets not be complacent. There are other street football games and these could be combined every four years into a World Series. Imagine Atherstone vs Ashbourne for bragging rights?
6. The balls are completely wrong for the game – no wonder it gets bogged down in a massive Hug. I think we either need to go huge or small. Imagine a great big space-hopper sized ball being rolled along – no problem identifying where that beauty is. The painting could take forever and may need rollers employed. Or what about something the size of a golden Snitch? Hey presto! and Shrovetide would instantly become a great big game of Where’s Wally that even the tots could join in.
7. And finally, the biggest problem of all is the number of players. Not only is no-one controlling the number of players on the pitch for each side at once but sheer numbers mean someone could easily get hurt and Health and Safety is paramount. Back in 1968, Foot and Mouth forced a rethink and they just may have cracked it – by playing mini-Shrovetide. Imagine limiting the number on each team to, say, 15. With that many players you wouldn’t need such a big area to play in – it could be played on the Rec. Granted there needs to be some more jeopardy built in so perhaps we could use an oval ball?
Footnote: Ashbournevoice wholly disassociates himself from this heresy and will remove the tongue from his cheek forthwith.