ONE of the oldest and most surreal sporting events will take place in a County Durham town next week.

For almost 1,000 years, hundreds of enthusiastic competitors have battled for victory in the annual Shrove Tuesday Ball Game in Sedgefield.

The game, which takes place on Tuesday, February 12, sees players compete for possession of a small leather ball and often lasts for hours.

There are very few rules, but many conventions, including a free drink for the first player to take the ball into any one of the local pubs.

Last year, 80-year-old villager Vera Iceton had the honour of starting the game by passing the ball through the bull ring on the village green three times.

Mrs Iceton was chosen because each of her three sons have won the game in the past.

Victory, meanwhile, went to Martin Lower- a 35-year-old delivery driver.

The game is thought date back to 1256 when the stonemason who completed St Edmund's Church challenged the countrymen to a celebratory game of football.

Nowadays, it is organised in some secrecy, which is rumoured to be a way of avoiding liability for damages.