The one-off Euro 96 Subbuteo ball is back on sale

I received a very interesting email from Graham Horton this week after he missed out on a very unusual eBay auction. It led to a very strange tale.

A few months ago I’d appeared on the Netflicks Youtube show and mentioned the fact a set of Euro 96 balls with a large colourful tournament logo had appeared in a 1995 catalogue. However, the balls were replaced with more subtle Euro 96 branding when the sets were actually released. I assumed only three of the balls were ever made for the photo shoot and if they do exist, they would be one of the rarest items around.

Imagine my surprise then, when Graham pointed out a set of USA balls had sold for £20 on eBay with an unusual addition – a Euro 96 ball with the larger logo!

I contacted the seller and a very interesting take emerged. The seller was a lovely lady who said the ball was actually her son’s. He had seen the auction and cancelled it immediately, and the buyer was understanding that it was a mistake to list it.

Her son then contacted me and we had a good chat this week. He is a very affable man called Simon Roe and he used to work for Subbuteo in the product testing department. Waddington’s was unusual in that it had its own product safety team who would get the latest toys and accessories and test them for safety.

He says he must have picked up the ball while working there and any others made were probably destroyed during testing – or dissolved in acid! They did this to break down the chemicals and test them to see if they were safe to sell.

I’ve corroborated Simon’s story and it checks out. He admits he wasn’t a huge Subbuteo fan but as a football fan he did keep the odd product. He even said he probably would have just thrown it out if he hadn’t been contacted by so many interested buyers!

Simon says he was employed by Subbuteo straight out of school and we’ll have a big feature on his time there in the next issue of The Hobby magazine.

The balls were probably used in displays and on marketing stands but it is likely this ball is the only on of its kind – a true Subbuteo one-off.

He has now listed the ball on eBay again and is hoping to donate half the proceeds to charity. It’s a nice touch and it has also caught the imagination of buyers with bids already over £100! You can see the auction here.

It does make you wonder what else is out there in attics and lofts across the UK doesn’t it?

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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