The game with no rules: What is Workington's Uppies and Downies?

Our reporter Kieran Macfadzean went along to find out why the game is so important.


A west Cumbrian town is preparing for the return of a centuries-old mass game with no rules.

Uppies and Downies is a tradition which kicks off in Workington every Good Friday.

Fiercely contested, the winning team will have bragging rights for the coming year.


What is Uppies and Downies?

The Uppies, from the top of the town, and Downies, from the bottom of the town, face off against each other.

The object is to "hail the ball" at the opposing team's goal.

Hailing the ball involves throwing it three times in the air. The Downies' goal is a capstan on the Prince of Wales' dock, while the Uppies' is the gates of Workington Hall in Curwen Park.


What are the rules of Uppies and Downies?

There is a gentleman's agreement between both sides that players are not permitted to take the ball into a vehicle during a game.

But - there are no official rules.


Downie Pat Carr said: "I started on my dad's shoulders to keep me safe. When I was 11 it was the first time I touched the ball. I got the buzz for it ever since. I've hailed three balls."

He added: "It's one of the best adrenaline rushes you'll ever get."

Three games are played each year, with the first on Good Friday, the second on the Tuesday after Easter and the final one on the following Saturday.

Beyond Easter, the game is commemorated all year round with a pair of coal-black iron-ore coloured figure statues created by Maryport sculptor Colin Telfer. One is outside Workington Hall, and the other is at the town harbour.

Each year, participants raise money for good causes. This year's charity is Andy's Man Club, a men's suicide prevention charity.

Uppies and Downies is just one of about 25 traditional football games still played across Britain, with its origins tracing back to the 12th century.

The modern tradition began sometime in the latter half of the 19th century.

They are mostly played on holy days, with the most popular Shrove Tuesday or New Year's Day.


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