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Northern Ireland Table Football History

Subbuteo Table Soccer was popular in Northern Ireland in the 1970s & 1980s, when we were part of the United Kingdom Subbuteo Association. Our National Championships were sponsored by Subbuteo headquarters and the winners represented Northern Ireland at British, European & World level. The main clubs were in Belfast, Rathcoole, Ballyclare & Bangor. Regional Opens were added to the fixture list in the mid-eighties and the Association expanded further to Comber, Strabane & Coleraine.

With the formation of FISTF (The Federation of International Sports Table Football) in the early nineties, the sport had a more global aspect and several of our members played in foreign open events. In 1993 & 1994 we hosted two FISTF International Opens in Bangor which attracted top players from UK & Ireland, mainland Europe & even Australia.

By 1996, however, local interest had declined and there was no further activity until 2002, when Simon Stewart, Barry Spence & Kenny Beggs entered the FISTF World Cup in Birmingham. Following this, a National League was formed and National Opens organised. As the player base grew, the National League was replaced by clubs. Belfast Barbarians Subbuteo Club was formed in 2003 and the long-standing North Down Subbuteo League was revived after years of dormancy. There was also a renewed interest in players travelling to overseas events. In 2004, Northern Ireland participated in the UK & Ireland Internationals, a new annual event which signified the general growth of the sport in the home nations. In May 2005, the Belfast International Grand Prix was held in W5,Odyssey. With 64 entrants from UK, Ireland and mainland Europe, it was the biggest ever Table Football event in Northern Ireland. The 2006 Belfast GP, at the same venue, did not attract as many players and it was scaled down to an International Open in 2007 but we also hosted the 2007 UK & Ireland Internationals in Park Avenue Hotel, which was a success in organising terms and in performance terms, with Northern Ireland finishing 2nd.

After 2008, interest in the UK & Ireland Internationals dwindled, so the two Irish Associations decided to jointly organise the Irish Circuit, a series of six Open Events during each season (3 in the North and 3 in the South), culminating with the All Ireland Championships. This rejuvenated the game in Ireland and provided more accessible tournaments for local players as transport costs were making it increasingly difficult to travel further afield.

NITFA became affiliated to the World Amateur Subbuteo Players Association (WASPA), headed by former FISTF President, Vincent Coppenolle, in October 2012. The Dunmurry Open in Beechlawn House Hotel was the first Northern Irish event to be played under the WASPA banner.

There was a gradual decline again, however, until 2016, when Martinog Bradley formed Derry City Table Football Club and started organising WASPA tournaments in addition to a local League. The events have attracted players from Derry, Donegal, Strabane and Belfast and look set to expand as we enter 2017.