How to fix Subbuteo? Three ideas to rejuvenate the game

Subbuteo is brilliant. Whether you’re collecting, building a stadium or playing in tournaments or with friends, it seems like the game is flexible enough to suit all tastes.

Having survived for well over 70 years now it probably seems a bit arrogant to think I know where the game should be headed next – after all Subbuteo has flourished, dipped and re-grown perfectly well without my input.

That is not going to stop me putting some ideas out there to see what other fans think. Subbuteo is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in recent years and a growing community is falling in love with the game once again. But can it be better? Can it become more mainstream and better sit beside the actual game of football in a digital age?

Without once mentioning an idea of a Subbuteo computer game, I’ve thought of three ways Subbuteo could expand in future. Any feedback, good or bad, would be most welcome. It would also be great if you have any ideas for a follow up blog. If so leave a comment or email me at

Make more teams

Subbuteo collectors will tell you the thrill is all in the chase – finding a rare team with a remarkable kit from an obscure country is the goal for many collectors. A rare Fredrikstad from Norway or Rimini from Italy is the pride of many a collection.

The new Subbuteo isn’t going to dive straight in to smaller clubs – I can’t see a Southport team appearing to mirror the old heavyweight set – but at the moment it offers a host of Spanish sides and the odd Champions League contender such as Juventus.

The quickest and easiest way to give the brand a popularity injection is to introduce more sets. Look at how the media clamoured for the recent women’s edition, while a few MLS or A League sets would be collectible and raise the profile in popular Subbuteo countries.

To really reduce the risk you could implement a Lego-style voting system. The legions of Subbuteo painters could submit a team idea and let the public vote on which one Subbuteo produce, thus guaranteeing a customer base before production begins.

Make it collectable

Did you collect this year’s World Cup stickers? Thousands did. In fact, they were popular with all ages and the Panini book is one of the all-time best-sellers for the brand.

Collecting is a part of a football fan’s life. From match day programmes to FIFA FUT players, every fan wants to collect the best players in the world in whatever format.

Small blister packs of Subbuteo players could do the same thing. Subbuteo could produce individual players such as Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. Make them collectable and swappable and sell them three to a pack.

Then launch a small mini-game with a five-a-side pitch to go with it. Make the bases swappable and customisable so that players can create team identities and produce it as a mini game edition.

Kids can collect the packs, build their dream teams and then take on their friends. The packs could include all sorts of modern upgrades like QR codes with unlockable digital content, videos and even an online game using the players they get in the pack.

Make it grow up

Subbuteo is enjoying a massive renaissance across the world. The rise in nostalgia around football has seen interest reignited – but there is another reason.

Subbuteo is now being used by professionals from New York City to England’s national team. Top level coaches and players see Subbuteo is an ideal 3D visual aid when describing tactics and team moves because it can be interactive and clear in the way a white board cannot.

Hasbro needs to seize this opportunity to sell sets aimed specifically at FAs, coaches and football clubs with durable players coloured to match a team. It needs to create tactics markers and other accessories for the professional to turn the game into more of a tool.

It should never abandon its roots as a fun to play, flick-to-kick game, but there is no harm in expanding revenue streams and growing in exciting new areas.


Stephen Hurrell
Stephen Hurrell
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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