Eton wall game

Eton wall game

The Eton wall game originated at Eton College. It has similarities to both the modern sports of rugby union and football.

It is played on a strip of ground 5 metres wide and 110 metres long next to a slightly curved brick wall (which was erected in 1717). The most important match is the annual St. Andrew's Day game which is played between a team of "Collegers" (scholarship holders) and a team of "Oppidans" (the rest of the students, who comprise most of the student body). Although College has only 70 pupils (this number has traditionally been the number of King's Scholars in College as laid down by King Henry VI) to pick its team from, compared to the 1250 or so Oppidans, College has one great advantage: the strip lies on 'College Field', a football field next to the Slough-to-Eton Road the access to which the incumbent Keeper of College Wall has control of. On the traditional St. Andrew's Day match, the Oppidans climb over the wall, after throwing their caps over in defiance of the Scholars. However, in practice, it is usual for them to allow the Oppidans to use it when they wish.

Rules and scoring

Each team tries to move the ball towards their opponents' end of the playing area. In those last few yards of the lengthy field (an area called the "calx", Latin for "chalk"), a player can earn a "shy" (worth one point) by lifting the ball against the wall with his foot. A teammate then touches the ball with his hand and shouts "Got it!" Those two plays must be entirely within Calx. This also gives the scoring team the right to attempt a goal (worth nine points) by throwing the ball at a designated target (a garden door at one end of the field and a tree at the other end). A player may score a kicked goal, worth five points, if he kicks the ball out and it hits a goal during the normal course of play.


The process of getting the ball is arduous and a stalemate often ensues. This is because, in effect, the game consists of the two sets of players forming a rugby-style scrummage (called a "Bully") in which neither team may move the ball backwards (except in Calx, where a different type of Bully called a Count's Bully occurs). The Bully is formed next to the Wall and crabs slowly up and down the Wall inch by inch until the ball emerges. Many players, particularly those whose position is actually against the Wall (this is either the "wall" or the "second"), lose the skin off their elbows, hips and knees. Players within the Bully shove and push each other, mostly with their bodies but also by placing their fists (actual punching is not permitted) against the faces of the opposition and attempting to lever them backwards and away from the Wall.

The fastest way to make ground is by kicking the ball upfield and out of play whenever it comes sideways out of the Bully - unlike most types of football, play is restarted opposite where the ball stops after it had gone out, or was touched after it had gone out. As such, the most common tactic revolves around the formation of a 'phalanx'. This consists of a tunnel (coming out from the wall, diagonally forward from the position of the ball) of players from one team who are crouching on hands and feet next to each other. Once the team in possession of the ball has formed a successful phalanx, it attempts to pass the ball down the 'tunnel' using the knees of the players forming it, to a player (known as lines) standing at the end of the phalanx whose job it is to kick the ball upfield. The team not in possession is constantly attempting to disrupt this, and win the ball back. The game is therefore chiefly characterised by this battle for a favourable tactical position.

The game lasts up to an hour (30 minutes per half); many games end 0-0. Scoring goals is very rare; they occur about once every 10 years and there has been a drought of goals in the St. Andrew Day game since 1909. There was a goal scored in a recent scratch match (a less formal warm-up match for the St. Andrew's Day game) in October 2005. However, shies are scored more frequently, with the Oppidan side scoring shies in 2002, and 2004. In the most recent St. Andrew's Day match, the outcome of the match was a 0-0 draw, both sides failing to score.


The Wall Game is organised entirely by boys, particularly by the Keepers of College Wall, Oppidan Wall and Mixed Wall. These posts are currently held by Lawrence Koo, Ben Taylor and Hee-Won Cho respectively. Boris Johnson is a past Keeper of College Wall. Eric Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell) and Harold Macmillan have been other famous players of the game. The First World War Flying Ace Arthur Rhys Davids also played, representing College with Ralph Dominic Gamble in 1915. Kings Scholars also annually commemorate the great Wall Game Player James Kenneth Stephen. Despite its renown outside the school, only a very small number of the 250 or so boys in each year ever take part in the sport, unlike the lesser-known but much more widely played Eton Field Game.

The Eton wall game has been played twice by all-female teams.

ee also

* Football
* English public school football games
* Eton Field Game

External links

* [ Eton College site on the Wall Game]
* [ article on the game]
* [ Official Wall Game Rules]
* [ Freinberg, Tony (July 24, 2005) "Just don't call them the Eton Wallflowers"]


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