75 years of Subbuteo – so what’s going on at Longshore?

Late last year the BBC published an article about the resurgence of Subbuteo. It was a great article but one paragraph stood out like a sore thumb among the comforting nostalgia of the rest of the article.

It simply said: “The BBC has asked the current makers of Subbuteo, Longshore Limited, whether the resurgence claimed by people like Mr Harrington is being reflected in set sales.

“The company is yet to respond.”

If one of the most respected news organisations in the world could not get a response out of the media-shy Hong Kong company, what future does Subbuteo have? What hope do we have of a proper PR and marketing strategy alongside exciting new products?

It has been nearly 12 months since Subbuteo’s official accounts announced a new rubber-backed astro pitch is on the way. It looked to be the most exciting product announcement for over 20 years. While the VAR set was fun the pitch was a genuinely useful accessory that would probably entice collectors, players and new fans to the brand.

Since then there has not been a single update. No new teams (as tacky as they are), no new box sets and no new accessories. There has been barely a murmur from Longshore.

So what is going on?

Subbuteo.Online was able to get an audience with Longshore before Christmas last year and in a lengthy video call we were able to ask the company a few questions about Subbuteo and what the plans are for the brand.

The results are not surprising. We are in the middle of a pandemic and production and distribution has been disrupted. That explains why some new teams were available only in Italy, where distributors were happier to accept the products. Brexit has also made importing items more difficult, meaning the likes of Italy and Portugal are easier to access and get new products to.

Longshore says the focus is very much on getting new children into the game – after all Subbuteo is a children’s toy and as such that remains the target market for its products. The TV adverts backed by John Motson showcase the brand’s intention to use the nostalgia angle to push Subbuteo as an inter-generational family game but that leaves little space for collector’s editions or the more ‘pro’ versions.

However, it may not mean the brand is completely ignoring the more modern flat base game. Longshore wants to work closely with table football associations and has already agreed a partnership with the English Subbuteo Association.

So far, so standard.

Longshore did offer up one snippet of information. The 75th anniversary of the game in 2022 is big news in the company and they are keen to take advantage of this as much as possible. A new logo has been designed and we were promised ‘several’ new products to celebrate the year.

As for the rubber backed pitch? No sign of it yet but Longshore did assure us it was a real thing and it was coming. We just do not know when.

What next for Subbuteo then? Given the shoddy communications and unfulfilled promises from Longshore it is difficult to know if the 75th anniversary will actually represent a turning point in the brand.

We are promised new pitches, new teams and maybe even a new box set. It is a World Cup year and a major milestone for Subbuteo as a brand but it remains the makers and creators of the community who are driving it forward. Thankfully the likes of the BBC recognise that already.

Stephen Hurrell
Stephen Hurrellhttps://subbuteo.online
Stephen is the founder and editor of The Hobby Online and The Hobby by Subbuteo.Online print magazine. He is a giant nerd and specialises in Subbuteo, retro football kits and consumer stories. A journalist and editor of 15 years, he has written about football for some of the UK's biggest publications.

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