North East Table Football Alliance

  Subbuteo in the North East since 1978

Subbuteo - a potted history!



Subbuteo was invented and produced by Peter Adolph in Tunbridge Wells.  His Langton Green based business became an international phenomenon.


From an early age Peter Adolph had two great passions - ornithology and football.  After serving in the airforce in World War II, Peter returned home to live with his mother in Langton Green.  He worked for the Pensions Office and sold birds eggs for extra money.  Inspired by a button from Woolworths, Peter thought that he could improve on the table football games popular at the time.  He made a base using the button, weighted down with a washer.  The result was to revolutionise table football as it allowed players to spin and curve - just like a real footballer.

By 1948 Peter's table football game had been patented as 'Subbuteo', the Latin name for his favourite bird, the Hobby Hawk.  Subbuteo was sold by mail order through adverts in Boys Own Magazine and at School Boy Exhibitions.  By 1950 Peter was able to give up his full time job to concentrate on Subbuteo.


Peter is the chap directly behind the right hand goal

Over the next fifteen years the popularity of Subbuteo grew beyond all expectation.  It reached a peak when England hosted the World cup in 1966.  By 1968 Peter could no longer keep up with demand.  To provide investment for the company, Peter sold Subbuteo to Waddingtons but stayed on as Managing Director.

Peter, who had had complete control of the company in the past, found it difficult to adjust to being a company man.  In 1970 he resigned from Subbuteo.  He said that it was like losing an arm.


Peter enjoying the sun in the mid 1980's.

Peter Adolph died in 1994.  He lived in the Tunbridge Wells area much of his life and was well known for his love of sports cars and ornithology.  And as for football - he was a Queen's Park Rangers fan all his life.

Mark Adolph (Peter's son) has written us a few words:

Hello to everyone at NETFA,


Sixty years on from the invention of Subbuteo, I think it is a testament to the game, and to my father, Peter Adolph, that Subbuteo Clubs such as yours are thriving and the interest and enthusiasm for the game is still very much alive.


I am sure that Dad would have been thrilled that his "baby" is still enjoyed by millions worldwide. I remember him being asked in the eighties if he felt there was now a threat to Subbuteo from the new computer generated games which were starting to flood the market, and his reply was that he felt that Subbuteo could hold its own against these new games and they could live side by side. I think he was correct!


I hope that your club, NETFA, continues to play the game of Subbuteo in the manner that Dad had intended. Fairly and with the emphasis on fun and enjoyment. If that can be achieved, hopefully this great game of Subbuteo which we all love can continue for another sixty years.


Here's hoping!


My best wishes to all at NETFA.


Mark Adolph



If you want to know more about the history of Subbuteo, there is available a book written by Mark Adolph. This details the history of the game and what it was like to grow up with the game! To find out more, follow the link below.

How our club started!

The club effectively started way back in 1978, when I formed Stokesley Subbuteo Club ’78 with four other players. In the early years, I could never have imagined where this ride would take me as we played games in each other’s houses whenever we found the time. Eventually, we got more and more members and had to find a new home, which was the Town Hall in Stokesley. As time went by, and I became more actively involved in the Subbuteo infrastructure, more players arrived and we soon outgrew the Town Hall. A move to Marton and a change of name to Teesside Phoenix was the result. About this time, I also started to organise a regional league, drawing together top players from all over the north-east. This was played first at North Tees hospital and later in Redcar. The Phoenix club started to dwindle in numbers, but never lacked for quality. At one time we were ranked third best team in the world. Not bad considering we were five local lads taking on some of the worlds best teams from Italy and Belgium.

Again, the numbers dwindled and eventually, as the players grew from boys to men, the club was dispersed to the four corners of the United Kingdom! We still existed as a team, but the club was gone. A merger with a Bristol based team saw the birth of the English Premier League, a club that still exists. At this time I withdrew from the scene for a while and the team carried on without me.

Then, out of the blue, Ben Staples contacted me. Ben had always been a close friend, but had given up the game in his youth. With the buzz back, we started playing again, playing for Hot Club d’Ecosse and the Yorkshire Phoenix.

But what I missed most was the ‘club’ meetings of the past. So we decided to form the North East Table Football Alliance, and this club was born!

The club has developed in a series of 'lurches' and has had to adapt to the numbers of players, their commitment and time pressures. But we are still here, still flicking to kick and still trying to uphold the values, the sportsmanship and the vision of Peter Adolph.