5th July 2010
There can be few things more absurd than a dozen grown men chasing a ball around a field. A dozen grown men riding old bikes and chasing a ball around a field is definitely one of those things...
Don't worry, you won't be asked to take part. This is a spectator sport and there's no chance of being unexpectedly 'volunteered' when you turn up to gawp in awe at the sight of the hardy chaps from the Hayes & Southall Motorcycle Club playing MotoBall at the Rye (Hamstreet) Classic Motorcycle Show on Sunday 18th July 2010.
MotoBall -- motorcycle football -- was started after the First World War by British army dispatch riders who plainly had not enough dispatching to do and access to motorcycles which they didn't have to fix themselves. The sport grew and a British League and Knock-out Cup ran for many years. Back in the 1960s there were plenty of local clubs playing in the UK, including Triangle (Ipswich), Border (Hampshire), Hayes & Southall (West London), Metropolitan Police (London) and West Herts. You could even play 'spot the ball' in the weekly rag.
However, along with many other sports such as Grasstrack and Speedway, popularity declined until now it's rarely seen in the UK. The sport is still popular on the Continent, however. Germany, France, Holland and Russia boast teams which compete regularly in international games - the mind fair boggles at the thought of using Urals for a soccer match!
However, back in Blighty the players tend to use twin-shock era trials bikes, including the odd BSA C15, Bultacos, Hondas, Husqvarna and Yamahas. The bikes are modified with added safety precautions such as covered chain guards both top and bottom. All sharp edges are removed and a small frame is fitted below the engine to reduce the ground clearance, which stops the players running over the ball.
The rules should be fairly familiar to anyone who's played a game of playground kickaround. MotoBall is five-a-side football where the teams consist of four riders per side while the goalkeeper remains on foot. Apparently, the goalie used to be mounted on a motorcycle, too, but that proved to be rather too deleterious to life, limb and liberty…
The ball is of standard football construction and is approx 18-inches in diameter, weighing around a kilo. It can be kicked, and we think the rules permit heading (although bouncing something which weighs that much off your bonce can't be entirely conducive to long term wellbeing). Players are definitely not allowed to pick up the ball with the hands and scootle along with it. One of the two referees - and the entire crowd - will shout foul at such shenanigans.
There is a semi-circle around the goal that runs two metres either side of the goalmouth and no rider is allowed in this area except the goalkeeper and referee. Plenty of scope for offside rule controversy, no doubt.
Each team has four riders plus the goalkeeper and one reserve player on the touchline. Only the four riders are allowed on the pitch at any one time, and substitutions can take place with the permission of the referee. Most teams normally have a coach (the kind who gives instructions, not the kind you travel in) and a mechanic, and we suspect that the latter will be kept rather busy at half-time!
The pitch is the size of a standard football pitch, which is completely fenced off from the public. The usual notices are displayed around the outside of the arena warning the public regarding motorsport and its potential consequences. The game is usually split into four, 20 minute quarters with a ten minute break in between each quarter to allow for frantic spannering and significant arm waving by the coach.
The Hamstreet display comes courtesy of the Hayes and Southall Motorcycle Club, and they're are always on the look-out for new members. So if you watch the match and find yourself captivated by the action, then you'll be able to chat to the chaps and maybe join their team. The MotoBall game certainly promises to add extra zing to an already thriving event - and admission to the soccer match is included in the standard entry fee to the main Show itself.
The Rye (Hamstreet) Classic Motorcycle Show has grown over the years to become a thoroughly enjoyable outing, with a laid-back atmosphere set in the heart of some of Kent's best riding roads. The large, motorcycle-only autojumble continues to grow, while the Show attracts a range of machinery and Club stands from all eras. With live music and a beer tent, it all makes for a great day out in the country.
Rye (Hamstreet) Classic Show & Bikejumble
Hayes and Southall Motorcycle Club
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