Football’s 500 to replay battle of Bannockburn

Dean Philp and Scott Moncrieff shake hands at Stirling Rugby Club's grounds. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
Dean Philp and Scott Moncrieff shake hands at Stirling Rugby Club's grounds. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
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IT promises to be the biggest battle Bannockburn has seen in nearly seven centuries. Two armies representing Scotland and England will this spring face off near the famous battleground for a day-long football match featuring former stars of the game.

The initiative, known as Rival Nations, is being held in aid of the Homeless World Cup Foundation, and it is hoped it will help raise around £100,000 for the cause. The marathon fixture, involving around 250 Scots and 250 English, is scheduled to last around ten hours, and organisers hope the event will rewrite the record books for the largest number of participants in a single game.

Well-known faces from Scottish and English football have already been lined up to take part. The Tartan Army’s footsoldiers will be able to cheer on former internationals Alan Rough and Tom Boyd, while the Auld Enemy’s ranks will include former Rangers defender and Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager, Terry Butcher.

Rough, who played in goal for Scotland during the famous victory at Wembley in 1977, which sparked a pitch invasion, said the tie was the “most heated” in the world, and would encourage hundreds of fans to sign up.

Should it pass off relatively peacefully, organisers hope to replicate the large-scale match at a venue in England next year, and it could even become an annual event. While the numbers involved will pale in comparison to the thousands who assembled during the infamous 1314 battle – the Scots common army numbered around 6,000, while Edward II was able to muster an infantry around 25,000 strong – the main match promises to be a gruelling affair.

Each country will boast around 25 11-a-side teams, each of whom will play a rival team for around 20 to 25 minutes. Rough, Boyd, and Butcher will be on hand to offer coaching tips and, it is hoped, will pull on their boots. The one game will run continuously until all 500 players have taken part.

Scott Moncrieff, football events director at the Homeless World Cup and organiser of the Rival Nations event, said: “It’s not going to be 250-a-side with the ball being chucked in the middle and the last man standing winning, although that quite appeals to me. There will be one main match, with every single team taking part in the game, so the score will build up.”

Rough, who was capped 51 times for his country and played in two World Cups, said: “It’s a fantastic cause, and any Scotland versus England game will attract huge attention because it’s so competitive, no matter what level it’s at.

“The best feeling a Scottish footballer can have is beating England. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing football, badminton, or tennis. When we beat them in their own backyard it was an amazing atmosphere, and this game will be just as ­competitive.”

The game, scheduled for 5 May, will take place in the grounds of Stirling Rugby Club near Bannockburn. About 125 Scots have registered their interest in ­playing.

The existing world record for the largest number of people to compete in a continuous football match stands at 63, according to Guinness World Records and Moncrieff is optimistic of “smashing that.”