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Subbuteo Football Teams

Subbuteo was invented by Peter Adolph (1916–1994) who was demobbed from the Royal Air Force after the end of World War II. 

Searching for a new business opportunity he turned his attention to creating a new table-top football game. 

He adapted his game from Newfooty, a table football game that had been invented in 1929 by William Lane Keeling of Liverpool. 

He made numerous improvements, including changing the heavy lead bases under the model players to lighter materials, using for his prototype a button from his mother's coat and a washer.


In August 1946 Peter Adolph filed an outline patent application for the game, which was not finalised until May 1947. 

The August 1946 edition of The Boy's Own Paper first announced Subbuteo's availability and offered to send details, but sets were not available until March 1947. According to rumours, after the early adverts, orders started to pour in as Adolph set about converting his patent idea into a deliverable product.


The first Subbuteo sets, known as the Assembly Outfits, consisted of goals made of wire with paper nets, a cellulose acetate ball, cardboard playing figures in two basic kits (red shirts with white shorts, and blue shirts with white shorts) and bases made from buttons weighed down with lead washers. The story is that Peter found one of his mother's coat buttons and used Woolworth buttons for the early set bases. No pitch was provided: instead, the purchaser was given instructions on how to mark out (with chalk, provided) a playing area on to a blanket (an old army blanket was recommended). 

The first sets were eventually available in March 1947, several months after the original advertisement appeared. The first figures were made of flat cardboard cut out of a long strip. Later these card players came in press-out strips before being replaced with two-dimensional celluloid figures, known to collectors as "flats".


Early production of Subbuteo was centred in Langton Green, near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Following the advent of the OO scale players the player figures were individually hand painted by local outworkers in their own homes.



There were several further evolutions of figure design. In 1978 the "zombie" figure was introduced to facilitate the machine painting of figures. After much negative feedback, the zombie figure was replaced in 1980 by the "lightweight" figure that continued until the 1990s when Hasbro acquired Waddingtons Games, which owned Subbuteo.


After Hasbro bought John Waddington in 1994, Subbuteo sales declined from about 150,000 sets per year to 3,000 in 2002 and just 500 sets in 2003, when production was stopped.


Hasbro relaunched Subbuteo in 2005 with flat photorealistic card-style figures on bases, rather than three-dimensional figures. The relaunch was not a success and was again discontinued.


In 2012, Hasbro licensed Subbuteo to Eleven Force and it returned to the shops with new style three-dimensional rubber figures, launching Subbuteo into its eighth decade of production. Subbuteo also made other things for the collector, such as stands to create a stadium, cups, crowds, policemen and much more.


In 2020, Hasbro awarded the licence to Longshore, although Eleven Force remained Subbueto's Spanish distributor. It was reported that Hasbro had been unhappy with Elevenforce's lack of interest in markets outside Spain.

In May 2020, Subbuteo World, a long-term UK seller of Subbuteo, announced it was advising Longshore. It also advised there will be new teams, a Subbuteo VAR set and new fences.

Subbuteo is a registered trademark of Hasbro Inc.

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