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  1. ITV Report

Atherstone Ball Game cancelled after steward taken to hospital in critical condition

Hundreds of people grapple for control of a large ball as part of the game - with the winner being whoever has a hold on it after two hours. Credit: BPM Media

A ball game that has been played annually for more than 800 years had to be cancelled after one of the stewards fell ill.

The 821st Atherstone Ball Game was abandoned on Shrove Tuesday (25th February) when a long-serving steward required medical treatment.

The event, held annually since the early 12th century dates back to the reign of King John. Hundreds of people grapple for control of a large ball as part of the game - with the winner being whoever has a hold on it after two hours.

Stewards have taken part in recent years to clamp down on any violence.

But this year's competition, which started at 3pm, stopped early after an ambulance was called just before 4pm.

The Ball Game committee decided to abandon the game as police officers, ambulances and an air ambulance attended the scene.

The steward, who was found in a critical condition, was airlifted to hospital after being treated by paramedics.

Warwickshire Police confirmed there were "no suspicious circumstances they are aware of" that led to ending the game early.

An ambulance was called before 4pm on Tuesday Credit: BPM Media

"The game was abandoned by the event organisers due to a medical emergency and we provided assistance at the time. "There are no suspicious circumstances that we are aware of. We are continuing to work with the organisers to understand the circumstances of this unfortunate incident. "However, I would like to thank the organisers of the ball game and the Atherstone community for their understanding and support for the family during this time."

– Sgt Neil Pearsall

"[Tuesday saw] the whole community pull together in the most serious situation we could be in.

"One of our longest serving stewards took ill and was seen to immediately by our first responders.

"On behalf of the Atherstone Ball Game committee we would like to thank all the team players of the community for you support in this very upsetting situation.

"He received the best care on site and that is carrying on at the hospital. The town would like to send their love and support to him and his family."

"Rest assured we will keep you all updated."

– The Atherstone Ball Game committee