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Play Subbuteo

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How to Play

How to Play
Rules for Beginners


Match Duration. FISTF Rules state matches should be two halves of 15 minutes but for beginners two halves of 10 minutes suffices.


Flicking & kicking. The ball is “kicked” when it is struck by one of the playing figures, usually by the base but not necessarily so. In order for this to happen the player in possession of the ball flicks the base of the playing figure cleanly with the nail of his/her fore finger or middle finger. It is permissible to use the pitch surface to spring the flicking finger off. It is an illegal flick if: i) the thumb is used to spring the flicking finger; ii) the back or side of the finger is used instead of the nail; iii) if another figure or the ball is touched when making the flick; iv) the hand moves whilst making the flick (no swiping); v) the figure is pushed instead of flicked. Penalty for illegal flicking: Free-flick.


Possession of the ball. The attacking player is the player in possession of the ball, the defending player is the player who is trying to gain possession of the ball. Possession of the ball is retained if the ball is legally hit (kicked) and the ball remains in play without striking an opposition figure. If another figure (of either team) is struck before the ball is struck it is a foul and a free-flick to the defender is awarded. If the ball is not struck or it last strikes an opposition figure possession changes. If the ball is not struck but the flicked figure hits another figure, possession changes and a Back is awarded. The same playing figure may only strike the ball three times in succession.


Blocking & Back If the player in possession flicks, hits the ball and retains possession the defending player may take a Block-flick. The object of a block-flick is to obstruct the attacking player by i) positioning a defending figure in front of the ball so that it is difficult to hit, ii) positioning a defending figure behind the ball so that the way to goal is obstructed. A block-flick can also be used to move figures around the pitch for strategic purposes. In making the Blockflick the normal flicking rules apply and in addition the flicked figure must not come into contact with another figure (of either team) or the ball. If it does it is a Back. If the figure or ball it came into contact with was stationary all the pieces are returned to their original positions. If the ball was moving then a Free-kick is awarded to the attacking player at the point of infringement. If the ball was stationary and a moving attacking figure was hit (intercepted) by a defender’s figure then Back is awarded but the attacker’s figure is placed at the point of interception


Scoring a goal. A goal may only scored if the ball is wholly inside the shooting area when it Is struck. If the ball is struck from outside the shooting area and deflects off a figure inside the shooting area into the goal or across the goal-line a goal-kick is awarded. A goal is only given if the ball is wholly across the goal line, between the posts and under the cross bar.


Goal Kick. If the attacking player hits the ball over his opponent’s goal-line without scoring a goal or forcing a corner kick a goal-kick is awarded. Both players may pick up and reposition all of their playing figures. The defending player should position his/her figures after the attacking player. The ball is placed wholly inside the goal area and either the rod goalkeeper, the spare goalkeeper or one of the outfield playing figures is used to kick the ball out of the penalty area.


Corner kick. A corner kick is awarded when the defending player hits the ball over his/her own goal-line or when the attacking player hits the ball which is wholly inside the shooting area off a defending playing figure which is also wholly within the shooting area and the ball then crosses the goal-line.


Procedure for taking the Corner kick. The attacking player nominates a figure to take the corner. He then takes three positional flicks. The defending player then takes three defensive flicks. The corner kick is then taken.


Throw-in. A throw-in is given to the defending player if the attacking player hits the ball across either touchline. A Throw-in is awarded to the attacking player if he/she forces the ball over the touchline off a defending figure only if the ball, the flicked figure and the defending figure are all within the same zone when the flick is made and the ball crosses the touchline wholly within the same zone.


Procedure for taking a Throw-in. The attacking player nominates the figure to take the throw in and takes one positional flick. The defending player then makes a positional flick. The ball is placed on the touchline at the point where it crossed it. The attacker then flicks the nominated figure so that the ball is brought back into play. The defender is allowed a block flick. Play resumes as normal.


Procedure for taking Free kicks. The attacking player nominates a figure to take the free kick and then makes a positional flick. The defender then takes a positional flick. The attacker then strikes the ball with the nominated figure and play resumes as normal as soon as the ball is struck. All free kicks except the penalty flick are in-direct.


Goalkeeping. The goalkeeper can be manipulated by use of the handle to save shots anywhere within or directly above the goal area. It can be held above the pitch before the shot is taken, The only exception being is when a penalty is being taken, when the goalkeeper must not be forward of the goal-line. If the ball is touched by the goalkeeper outside the goal area an indirect penalty is awarded. If this offence is repeated in the same match a penalty is awarded.


Spare Goalkeeper. The goalkeeper may be substituted for the spare (Flicking) goalkeeper at any time by a player in possession of the ball. The spare goalkeeper must come on the pitch within or directly behind the goal area. It may be used to take goal kicks, clear the ball or for any other purpose but the rod goalkeeper may only replace the spare goalkeeper when the player is in possession of the ball or when a penalty flick is awarded. If both goalkeepers on the pitch at the same time an indirect penalty kick is awarded.


Offside. A figure is in an offside position if it is wholly within the shooting area and there are less than two (including the goalkeeper) opposition figures between it and the goal line. However Offside is only given when the ball is wholly within the shooting zone and has passed the last defender.


Onside Flicks. The attacking player may take up to three onside flicks per possession. After each onside flick (Tick) the defending player takes a positional flick.



New FISTF Rules


Project Documentation


Letter from FISTF


Plain Text


Explanatory Notes






Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who can play Subbuteo?
    Subbuteo can be played by people of all ages and abilities.
  • How do I join a club?
    You can become a member by clicking on the “JOIN THE ESA” box and paying the annual membership fee. Membership is free if you are under 18. Membership lasts for 12 months from the day you paid the membership fee.
  • How do I join the ESA?
    You can become a member by clicking on the “JOIN THE ESA” box and paying the annual membership fee. Membership is free if you are under 18. Membership lasts for 12 months from the day you paid the membership fee.
  • What are the benefits of being a member?
    All membership benefits are listed on the “Join the ESA” page.
  • Why are there different sets of rules and different types of equipment?
    Subbuteo has a very reach history longer than 75 years. During that time the game has been developing into different styles and set of rules with related specific equipment. This process has been led by players and organisers to respond to the preferences and interests of beginners, enthusiasts and competitive players. You can find different sets of rules on the “How to play” section. ESA supports all styles of the beautiful game.
  • Do I need to buy equipment before I can start playing Subbuteo?
    You don’t need to buy anything to start or try the game. As a beginner or re-starter you can initially borrow equipment – subject to availability - and surely get free training in one of the friendly clubs that are all over the UK. Ask the local club chairman for details.
  • Is there a fee to pay to participate to a club night or a local or WASPA tournament?
    Regarding club nights, each club has its own rules and self-funding processes. Please ask your local club. About local and WASPA tournaments, the organisers will make clear whether there is a registration fee when promoting the event.
  • I have been registered to the ESA website for a long time but my login details don't work anymore, what should I do?
    If you are using the login details from the previous ESA website, they are no longer valid. Please register from scratch to the new website and follow instructions.
  • I bought or renewed my membership, recorded the club I am affiliated to but it does not show on my profile. What can I do?
    Your membership details that you recorded when you bought or renewed your ESA membership don't automatically feed into your visible website profile but get only used by ESA for administrative purposes and FISTF affiliation. If you wish your club or other details to be visible to the ESA website subscribers, please edit your profile and select what you like to be public and what you like to be private.
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