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Flicker of hope for the women’s game: Subbuteo launches all-female playset

By Heather Large | In-depth | Published:

It’s a game that has been loved by generations of football fans and is still very much alive and kicking in homes across the country today.

Sue Smith, left, and Marzena Bogdanowicz at Wembley Stadium

Now Subbuteo has been given a new look with the first all-female set launched in recognition of the rapid growth of women’s football in the UK.

The FA says the new version of the table football game supported its ambition to tackle barriers within the women’s sport, which is continuing to to expand at all levels.

Last season more than female 147,000 players competed in affiliated league and cup competitions – a figure which has risen from just 10,400 in 1993, when records started.

The limited edition Subbuteo set, which was revealed by The FA and the game’s maker, Hasbro, ahead of the SE Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, on Saturday, has 22 outfield players and six substitutes, each hand-moulded and painted with their own characteristics and detailing.

The figures are wearing the colours of cup finalists Arsenal and Chelsea and the classic Subbuteo box has also been given a makeover with the female footballers placed front and centre.

The new all-female Subbuteo set

Captain of Wolves Women, Anna Price, who has been with the club since she was nine, has welcomed the set’s creation, describing it as ‘brilliant’ and saying it ‘reflects how far the game has come for females’.

“For young boys and girls it is representing equality, so a child’s first thought of football from playing with a Subbuteo set might be a footballer being a female rather than a male and then having to try and break down the stereotype,” she added.

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Justin Scott, chairman of Wolverhampton Subbuteo Football Club, also welcomed the creation of the set.

“I have been a keen supporter and follower of ladies' football for some time, and regularly watch England’s ladies on TV whenever I can.

“As a club, we are open to men and women of any age – but only have men playing at present.

“So naturally, we were excited to see that Subbuteo were creating a women’s set. It's a great idea and will help to promote both the women’s game and Subbuteo itself.

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“I haven’t seen the set other than a few photos on the internet at this stage, but the figures will no doubt be an excellent representation of the female game.”

The set is not available to buy but fans will have the opportunity to win one via FA social channels in the coming months.

Sophie Downey, of Girls on the Ball, which produce match reports from women’s games in the UK and across the world, has called for it to be commercially available, saying Hasbro were missing a trick because it would appeal to women’s football’s loyal and growing fan base.

Let Toys Be Toys, which campaigns to stop toys being promoted as either only suitable for girls or only suitable for boys, also wants the set to be made widely available.

Hasbro and the FA said they were ‘exploring future opportunities’ to bring out a set which recognises women’s football.

The figures are wearing the colours of FA Cup finalists Arsenal and Chelsea

Mr Scott said it was ‘huge disappointment’ that the women’s set wasn’t available to buy yet.

“I would love to see the women’s product do well, and really do hope it makes the female gender consider playing our sport.

“We would welcome them all at our club,” he added

Subbuteo sees players using their finger to flick footballers into position and to play the ball around the pitch.

At its height in the 1970s, Subbuteo was selling 25,000 miniature teams a month and dining room tables up and down the country were covered for much of the decade by felt pitches.

Its popularity had dwindled by the millennium and for many years after it wasn’t possible to find a set on the High Street.

The teams all line up

But in 2012, the game made a comeback to shops with new features including three-dimensional rubber figures launching Subbuteo into its eighth decade of production

Now, as well as being played in homes, clubs up and down the country, such as those in Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire, regularly meet for a kick-about.

Hasbro senior vice president James Walker said: “We are incredibly excited to work with the FA to place focus on female footballers in this special edition of Subbuteo.

“Subbuteo has a rich heritage that reflects the nation’s love of football and this all-female play-set is recognition of the vital role that women’s football has in our culture.”

Marzena Bogdanowicz, the FA’s head of marketing and commercial for women’s football, said: “This new, all-female Subbuteo set is a reflection of the rapid growth that women’s football is seeing in the UK right now.

“We aspire to greater equality all the way from board games to boardrooms, and every day we are striving to transform the future of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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