A Brief History of the World of Subbuteo
Subbuteo was invented in 1947 by Peter Adolph. Around that time, he established both Subbuteo Sports Games Ltd. and the Table Soccer Players Association. SSG was responsible for the manufacture and distribution of the Subbuteo product/range while the TSPA sought to organise and run events.
The first major change to the Subbuteo World was the introduction of the 00 scale figure in 1961. From here, the focus of SSG continued in expanding the range and exploring marketing opportunities, while the TSPA continued to prefer original Subbuteo flat figures and improved the skills in playing and organising.
The competitive playing movement was solidified in 1963 with the creation of European Table Football, followed closely by the affiliated and English Table Soccer Association.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Waddingtons acquired SSG and then in 1977 met with ETF/ETSA and the future was uncertain. It was anticipated by some that a unified body would emerge. However, it became clear that Waddingtons Subbuteo and the ETF/ETSA had different focuses and objectives and would not join; Waddingtons wanted to exercise their large marketing budget to promote their expanding range of products and to a younger market, where the ETF wanted to the freedom to play competitively without restriction.
Shortly after, Waddingtons established their own association, the Federation of International Subbuteo Associations (FISA) with the original English Subbuteo Association (ESA)affiliated. These organisations continued to operate separately throughout the 1980s and 1990s, organising events and promoting the game in their own manner. Many players competed in both associations and both contributed invaluably to the history of our beautiful game.
In the early 1990s, the Subbuteo brand was acquired by Hasbro, and the marketing support was discontinued. This brought the merger of the organising bodies and the Federation of International Sports Table Football was established, and national associations followed suit with the English Subbuteo Table Football Association.
Around this time, new equipment was developed that significantly changed the style of the game. Specifically designed bases for sliding and chipping became commonplace in both the mass-produced Subbuteo product and the competitive FISTF circuit. Players and organisers who favoured particular traditional styles were able to maintain these and this resulted in the re-emergence of the TSPA and the Old Subbuteo game early in the 1990s.
Over the years, the Subbuteo manufacturing licence has seen various incarnations from Italian and Spanish producers, and is still currently on sale. There similarly has been a myriad of reproductions of Subbuteo bases popular with collectors and traditional enthusiasts. Modern bases have seen further evolution to improve desirable playing qualities, and there are a wide range of beginner and premium bases available.
Recently, the ESTFA changed name to the current English Subbuteo Association and remains affiliated to FISTF. A sister association, the World Amateur Subbuteo Players Association (WASPA) was established to connect and promote all Subbuteo activity around the world. Today, the ESA organise national and international events across England under either the FISTF and WASPA banners. The TSPA and Old Subbuteo players still run open events. Many players continue to play multiple styles and more information on the different playing equipment, rules and styles can be found here.