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An ancient ‘sport’ which sees competitors swipe at each other’s legs will finally make a comeback after overcoming the Covid pandemic and health and safety fears.

The National Shinkicking Championships in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, have attracted thousands of spectators since first seeing the light of day in the early 17th century.

However, the showpiece event has been cancelled for the past two years as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

But after a £5,000 funding boost from the county council, the games will return in 2022.

The National Shinkicking Championships in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, have attracted thousands of spectators since first seeing the light of day in the early 17th century

The National Shinkicking Championships in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, have attracted thousands of spectators since first seeing the light of day in the early 17th century

The National Shinkicking Championships in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, have attracted thousands of spectators since first seeing the light of day in the early 17th century

Rules of shinkicking 

  • Competitors will be assigned bouts at random, with winners of all rounds gaining entry to a final bout. 
  • Usually, there will be a maximum of 12 contestants. 
  • Competitors must wear long trousers or tracksuits and may cushion their shins by using straw. 
  • They will be provided with white coats, representing the traditional shepherd’s smock. 
  • Footwear may be trainers, shoes, or soft-toed boots. Any form of metal-reinforced toe on footwear is expressly forbidden. 
  • Failure to comply will result in instant exclusion, and barring from future events.
  • A competitor begins by holding his or her opponent by the shoulders with arms straight. 
  • The contest will be started, finished and judged, by an arbiter, known as a Stickler. The Stickler decides the fairness of a contest. 
  • A contest is decided on the best of three throws – i.e. two successful throws results in a win.​​ 
  • Note that this may be reduced to one throw in the event of poor weather, or the maximum number of competitors reached. 
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The cash, drawn from a ‘Build Back Better Market Towns’ pot is designed to help revitalise struggling local economies and has been welcomed by the Robert Dover’s Games Society, which runs the Cotswold Olimpick Games, during which the popular shin-kicking event is held.

It has been viewed as a victory over not just Covid, but modern health and safety requirements which enthusiasts deem an unnecessary interference.

Chairman of the Robert Dover’s Games Society, Andy Norton, said: ‘We are extremely grateful for the help of Gloucestershire County Council, which means we can feel confident the 2022 Cotswold Olimpicks will be a memorable day for our local community, as well as the hundreds of visitors we expect from further afield.’

‘While all members of the Robert Dover’s Games Society give their time and energy for free, there are a multitude of costs associated with putting on this event.

‘These include sports equipment, marquee hire, fireworks, torches for the parade after the games, building materials for the restoration of the castle on the hill, barriers and fencing, entertainment fees, generator hire, hire of skips, bins and toilet facilities, transportation to and from Dover’s Hill and security services.

‘In addition to all these operational costs, we are also making a number of enhancements to our website to increase online ticketing, donations and merchandise sales. 

‘This will help us to get a head-start on our funding for the games beyond 2022.’ 

But former sports minister Richard Caborn distanced himself from the excitement of the fanatical shinkicking fanbase.

The showpiece event has been cancelled for the past two years as a result of coronavirus restrictions

The showpiece event has been cancelled for the past two years as a result of coronavirus restrictions

The showpiece event has been cancelled for the past two years as a result of coronavirus restrictions

He told the Telegraph: ‘Can it even be defined as a sport? I think it’s barbaric.

‘Is there a skill set? I think the best thing is for people not to do it. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t fall under any definition of sport. 

‘It’s not something that’s going to catch on, put it that way. It definitely won’t get in the Olympics. I think it’s crazy.’  

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