England are the absolute kings of old, esoteric sports nobody outside of regional areas have heard about — and the Atherstone Ball Game is no exception. Teams from Leicestershire and Warwickshire compete every Shrove Tuesday to wrestle over a giant ball, and this year it devolved into madness.
Brutal end to Atherstone Ball Game 2023. The last half an hour of the Pancake Day tradition saw punches thrown & a betting shop damaged as teams battled to gain control of an oversized ball. pic.twitter.com/LPMtAUaA1f
— Urban Pictures (@Urban_Pictures) February 21, 2023
Shoving and the occasional torn shirt are nothing new for the game, but a huge brawl outside a bookie definitely is. It occurred shortly before the 5 p.m. full time whistle, and featured dozens of players on both sides tearing at each other and punching each other in pursuit of the ball.
This weird game dates back 1199, when a bag of gold was used as both the ball and prize between the villages. Now teams assemble on both sides on Shrove Tuesday to keep the tradition alive in multi-hour madness where each team is trying to keep hold of the ball until the final whistle. That’s really the only rule: Hold on for dear life.
It’s been called the toughest sport in the world, and with scenes like this you can see why. It should be noted that nothing is happening legally as a result of the game — because all this is accepted as part of the contest.