A kick in the shins has been dealt to the health and safety brigade, as a centuries-old contest in which competitors take a swipe at each other’s legs has been revived.
The annual Shin-kicking Championships in Gloucestershire was called off in 2017 due to increasing health and safety demands that impacted funding, the chairman of the games said. It was cancelled again in 2020 and this year, due to social restrictions brought in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the popular competition has now been reinstated for 2022, after the local council agreed to award a £5,000 grant to Robert Dover’s Games Society, which organises the event.
The move will be hailed as a victory over modern health and safety requirements, which are seen by many shin-kicking competitors as unnecessary interference in their much-loved sport.
Richard Caborn, a former sports minister, said: “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.”
Andy Norton, chairman of the Robert Dover’s Games Society, said the grant would help cover the “multitude of costs” associated with hosting the event.
“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 community, as well as the hundreds of visitors we expect from further afield,” he said.
“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 (band, sound and lighting for the party in Chipping Campden), 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.”
What are the rules of shin-kicking?
Shin-kicking began as a competitive sport in the Cotswolds in 1612, attracting thousands of spectators. It has been part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games in Chipping Campden since 1951.
Despite its return, some health and safety measures are in place.
Metal-reinforced toes on shoes are banned, as are shorts. Participants are invited to stuff their trousers with straw in order to minimise the impact of kicks.
Anyone who fails to follow the rules will be eliminated and barred from entering again.
Usually around 12 people are allowed to compete.
The battle starts with the competitors putting their hands on each other’s shoulders with their arms straight.
Whilst maintaining that position, they must then try to kick each other in the shins with the aim of unbalancing the opponent then throwing them to the floor. Whoever achieves the most throws over three rounds is declared the winner.
A so-called “stickler” oversees the fairness of the contest.
The £5,000 grant came from a £500,000 Build Back Better Market Towns pot set aside by the council. The funds will be used to help revitalise market towns and boost the local economy.