First Published Issue 2
This ancient game, peculiar to Kent and East Sussex, was first played in the late 19th Century. Virtually every town and village had a team and there were numerous local leagues. During the first half of the last century, the game was so popular that coaches were hired to transport players and supporters to away matches. Goal Running was normally, but not always, played in bare feet and was based on the simple game of ‘Tag’, but additional rules made it quite complicated. Usually, around fifteen players formed a team but there was no hard and fast rule regarding numbers. Nor need each side necessarily have equal numbers. Games could last from about 40 minutes to over an hour so players needed to be fit and there was considerable skill involved. The play was usually in periods of 20 minutes each with a five-minute interval in between. Each team had a large flag that was set up and unfurled near the goal and they each had a distinctive uniform. The game normally needed a referee, two umpires and up to six linesmen. Its beauty was that it required no special equipment or pitch – any level playing field would do. Most of the local villages had teams and the New Romney team used to travel regularly to all parts of the county and also to East Sussex. There was also a local ladies team which played matches from time to time. In the 1940s, the
President of the New Romney Club was ‘Jackie’ Wiles, Chairman was Bill Souten, Secretary was Harold Kertland, Treasurer was Joe Tye and Captain was Bill Gillham.
Matches were played on the Sports Ground in Station Road on a Saturday evening during the summer months and after the game, everyone retired to one of the local public houses. There was
also great rivalry in the matches against Lydd and Dymchurch, especially at Romney Revels and Lydd Club Day. Goal Running Socials were regularly held in the Ship Hotel and the Assembly
Rooms in New Romney. I can remember playing the game when I was young although all ages took part in the sport. There was generally a large crowd following the match – the visiting teams also
brought a number of supporters.
However as a spectator sport, it could not compete with more sophisticated games like football and cricket and with more people owning a motor car and travelling further afield on a Saturday
evening, it soon faded from popularity. I used to enjoy the games and played it quite often but by the end of the 1950s it had disappeared altogether. A brief outline of the game is as follows.
The opposing teams are lined up along the boundary line ZA and BY. At a given signal, one man starts from each end of the points A and B and runs along the inside of the sides of the triangle AUB, towards his own point flag PF. The aim of each man is either to touch one of the opposing team or to run around his opponents point flag. If a player touches an opponent, a “stroke” is scored and if he succeeds in running round his opponents point flag and returning to his own goal, he gains a point for his side. Immediately after the first man has started from A or B he is followed by another, and then another, and so on as to form a never ending succession of runners who run round and round in the direction as shown by the arrows. The idea is to keep the point flag well protected by a constant succession of men running near this point. If a man out of line B tries to round the PF belonging to team A, the man of the A team immediately behind him when he crosses over will try to prevent him, either by chasing him or by intercepting his retreat. If the man from the B line finds he is unable to get back to his goal, he runs for the most convenient of the boundary lines (WX, XY
or WZ) with the runner from A pursuing him. If he is touched before reaching the boundary, A side scores a “stroke” which is five points.
When a player scores a “stroke” he ‘whoops’ and if the “stroke” is allowed, all play ceases and the players return to their respective goals and re-start on a given signal be the referee. The only penalty in the game is that the “stroke” goes to the opposing side if a player ‘whoops’ without actually touching his opponent. From “New Romney & District in the 1940s and 1950s”.
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