Charity teams get their kicks on beach

A FOOTBALL match which lays claim to being Scarborough's oldest surviving custom was staged yesterday to raise money for the resort's elderly residents.

The annual game organised by the Fishermen and Firemen Charity Fund is held on the town's South Bay beach and is traditionally played on Boxing Day. However, the match was shifted to yesterday as Boxing Day fell on a Sunday this year.

The event was first held in 1893 and saw a team of fishermen line up to play firemen who were stokers on the town's trawlers.

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The charity was started to help the widows and orphans of five Scarborough fishermen who drowned at sea aboard the Evelyn and Maud.

Hundreds of spectators, including former cricket umpire Dickie Bird, braved the weather yesterday to watch the game, which was won 7-6 a by the fishermen.

All the players have to wear a hat and if their headwear falls off, the opposing team is awarded a free kick.

Billy Blades, who helps organise the match with his wife Liz, was the captain of the firemen's team and celebrated his 40th anniversary of playing in the game. His opposite number, Alan Richmond, was also appearing for the 40th year.

Money collected during the match is distributed among the town's pensioners, who this year received a total of 120 30 shopping vouchers.

It is hoped that yesterday's event will have raised more than 1,000, which will be added to money collected from other fundraising events throughout the next year.

Mr Blades, 57, who runs a car parts and accessories shop in the town, said: "Not everyone who plays now is involved in the fishing trade, but the majority of people have links as their relatives worked in the industry. It is a wonderful tradition, and shows that there is a real community spirit in Scarborough."