Batten down the hatches for Sedgefield's Shrove Tuesday Ball Game

Darlington and Stockton Times: Competitors battle for possession of the ball at the Shrove Tuesday Ball Game in Sedgefield last year Competitors battle for possession of the ball at the Shrove Tuesday Ball Game in Sedgefield last year

A SPORTING tradition that has united residents of all ages for centuries will take place in a North-East town on Tuesday (March 4).

For almost a thousand years hundreds of competitors have taken to the streets of Sedgefield, County Durham, for the annual Shrove Tuesday Ball Game.

The game, which often lasts all day sees players compete for possession of a small leather ball.

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.

Each year, a resident is chosen to kick off the games by passing the ball through the bull ring on the village green three times at 1pm.

Last year, the honour went to Angela Bannister, a grandmother who has lived in Sedgefield all her life.

The winner was Stephen Flockett, 29, who dedicated his victory to his son Zachary.

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

Nowadays, it is organised by a secret committee, who rumour has it, keep a low profile to avoid liability for damages.

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