8 February 2013

Subbuteo: Accessories for the modern era

Subbuteo today leads a charmed life. Having peaked in the late-1970's, it dwindled away into virtual obscurity during the next decade or two and looked for a while as though 'flick to kick' had breathed its last. Luckily, despite several clumsy attempts by various companies to try and reinvent the brand, it survives to this day thanks to a loyal legion of fans keen to bring the game up to date in their own inventive ways.

Yet one can't help wondering what Subbuteo would be like today had it continued uninterrupted on its upward curve of the 1970's. The game of football today is different in so many ways to the one we knew back then, but would Subbuteo have changed with it? If so, what would we, the humble consumer, be buying for our collections if the game was as big today?

This is the question I spent almost a full ten minutes trying to find some answers to, and here below are a selection of them accompanied by artistic interpretations to give you a visual reference.

1. The electronic video display screen

Nothing says 'modern football' like a video screen parked in the corner of a stadium. Once upon a time, you'd have expected a brief frisson of excitement to tremble through your veins at the very sight of an old-fashioned scoreboard. It wouldn't cut the mustard now, though, for this is the age of the super-bright jumbo LED screen to show those off-target shots and adverts for local painters and decorators.

So how could such a thing be created for the world of Subbuteo nowadays? By using a humble digital photo frame, of course. It wouldn't need much modification; after all, you could load one up with various home-made JPEG adverts or some make-believe action shots of an actual Subbuteo match in progress - even some video clips if you really wanted to. Granted it wouldn't be able to show live scores but hey, that's where your imagination would take over, right?

2. The touchline 'number display' official

Well why not... He's come to epitomise everything from Sir Alex Ferguson's timekeeping to tactical substitutions these days. The man on the touchline with the digital display board is as much a part of the modern game as Sky Sports or Alan Hansen.

To be brutally frank, it's hardly essential to have a Subbuteo figure that just stands there holding a board (which in real terms would have a painted number on it) but that's all part of the Subbuteo oeuvre, as we've already covered here at The Football Attic. A touchline display man (well what exactly would you call him?) would stand there on the side of your green baize pitch happily minding his own business, passively adding realism and detail to any match more than you would ever realise. You know it makes sense.

3. Handshake centipedes

OK, I'll admit - the name leaves a little to be desired, but you see what I'm getting at. Every Premier League game starts off with both sides shaking hands - even if one member of the away team has said something derogatory about his fellow man among the home team ranks.

It's all a load of overblown nonsense, of course, but it's a part of 'the beautiful game' 2013-style, therefore it would need to be converted into plastic for Subbuteo purposes.

There are several ways this could be done. Either a composite centipede-like team could be created which could be manually moved past another similarly connected-up team, or a stick like device (like an ice lolly stick) could be created that ordinary players would sit on. This would allow one team to shuffle past the other easily as if a succession of handshakes was in progress.

Oh, and let's not forget the branded head-level board that would stand behind both teams too. Vitally important, reinforcing the brand.

4. The sponsor pitch disc

Come on, give me a break - these names don't come easy, you know.

We've all seen them while we've been sitting there in a draughty stadium waiting for the match to start: the rounded plastic sheet that covers the centre circle on the pitch. Usually it says something like 'Carling Cup' or 'Barclays Premier League', but in the imaginative world of Subbuteo it could say whatever you liked.

Come to think of it, it could be made of whatever you liked - cardboard, paper, plastic... Paper would be sufficient as it would allow you to print off your own personally branded discs that could be cut out and placed on your pitch proudly before every game. 

Unfortunately you'd need an army of plastic youths to carry the sheet off for added realism, but we'll save that for Phase Two of our product development campaign. 

5. Mascots

Finally, the ultimate in modern day Subbuteo ephemera - a plastic figure designed especially to mimic that sad bloke in a parrot costume who wastes every other Saturday afternoon trying to enliven the kids at your club's home ground.

Of course when I say 'parrot' it could just as easily be a dog or a bear or a... bumble bee? Well yes, admittedly this one comes courtesy of Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, but the truth is I could have shown anything from Arsenal's Gunnersaurus Rex to West Ham's Herbie the Hammer. Whatever the mascot, I'm sure it could be immortalised in miniature form and sold in its own sub-range as part of the Subbuteo array of paraphernalia.

Go on, say it: you can't believe no-one's ever thought of that before. I know, and that's why I legged it down to the Patent Office before I wrote this article. Genius is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

So what have I missed? What else do you think Subbuteo would be adding to its 2013 accessory catalogue that I haven't included above? Leave us a comment or drop us a line - admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com.

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