Rules for Old Subbuteo

Traditional Rules Reinstated from 1983 Advanced Rules

“It’s not meant to be played at 100 miles an hour. It’s a thinking game; a matter of angles – a lot like snooker in many ways” Peter Adolph (inventor of Subbuteo) quoted in Payne R. 1996, Fifty Years of Flicking Football.

This set of Rules is a re-instatement of the Traditional Rules of Subbuteo. It uses as its basis the Advanced Rules of the Subbuteo Rules and Regulations (Federation of International Subbuteo Associations) 1983. As originally published, the Traditional rules were written in a highly summarised form, the 1983 Rules provide a number of clarifications and interpretations which provide a valuable aid in the playing of the game. Where these clarifications do not conflict with the Traditional rules, they have been retained.

The 1953-54 season Advanced Rules (1961 Version) have been used to reinstate the original laws of the game, replacing the relevant rules in the 1983 version.

The main differences between this reinstatement and the 1983 Rules include:

  • The neutrality of the goalkeeper
  • Limits on number and location of blocking flicks
  • No forcing of throw ins allowed when the ball is outside of shooting areas
  • Option to move figures into defence whilst in possession
  • Positioning of figures during free flicks
  • Duration of game

In addition, it has been assumed that a standing goalkeeper will be available for use, and therefore its use is not considered to be optional.

Based upon the overall style of play the rules encourage, the following rules have been added or altered:

  • Explicit statement that time is to be allowed for the blocking flicks to be taken (turn-based gameplay)
  • Single ‘reorganisation’ in defence per phase of possession
  • No more than three passes towards own goal line when in possession in own half
  • The number of figures allowed to be present in a defenders shooting area (increased in accordance with later versions of the rules, to align with more modern football formations)

Alternative rules have been provided for organising the defence and arranging the team at free kicks. The alternative versions involve the flicking of figures into position, rather than placing (derived from later rules versions). Which alternative is to be used should be agreed by the players before kick-off. In addition some alternative ‚House rules‘ from individual members of the Independent Subbuteo Forum have been included (in italics)

The adoption of a ‘turn based’ approach is justified on the following basis:

  • The loss of blocking flicks can be devastating to a defence when correct football formations are required, so the defender must be given the time and space to complete them to the best of their ability.
  • Limited numbers and locations of blocks means that a fast attack  without waiting for block flicks gives the attack an unbalancing advantage in the game
  • The rules do not state either way whether or not a turn based approach is prescribed, but when ‘shooting’ is claimed block flicks are cancelled, implying in other situations it was expected time would be allowed for them to be executed.
  • The rules emphasise the importance of carrying out flicking action in the correct manner. This is often not possible when flicking towards oneself (as is frequently evidenced in the Modern game). Therefore, time (and space) must be allowed to perform a defensive flick in the manner required by the rules

Guidelines for Referees, fair play and etiquette

A certain amount of honour must be granted by one player to another

When a particular set of circumstances cannot be dealt with by the Rules. it is the responsibility of the referee (or of the players, if there is no referee) to resolve the problem.

When in doubt over anything try and apply the real Association rules

In case of doubt-toss a coin-or if serious-benefit the defence [16d]

Have an arrangement with one another as to procedure when in doubt over anything

If a third person is acting as referee, their decision is final [17]

If he wishes, a referee can appoint a linesman. The linesman should not voice an opinion until asked by the referee, even then the referees decision is final [16c]

Spectators must not interfere with play vocally or otherwise. No barracking allowed [16e]

Reasonable Time: The losing side has the right to state the length of time that elapses for the replacing of figures at a goal kick.

Deliberate Foul Play: It may on occasion suit a defending player to concede a free kick through handball, for example. It may similarly suit an attacking player to try to gain advantage by aiming his flick at the defending player’s hand. On such occasions if the referee feels that the tactics are deliberate, he may at his discretion order a Back, a Play-on or a free kick to the other side. 

The advised Duration of a game is 25 minutes a half.

Possession

The side in possession shall be known as the attacking side; the side not in possession is the defending side.

No single figure shall play the ball more than three times in succession, unless the ball touches another figure of the same side.

A back passing to his own keeper gains a further three flicks after touching the keeper [6c]

A figure shooting at goal, gains a further three flicks if the shot is saved and the ball returns to play [6c]

Only the figure flicked by the attacking side can make contact with the ball. No buffeting or the pushing of other figures onto the ball is allowed. If this occurs the defending side may request „Back“ and possession is lost.

When in possession,  and in their own half, a team may play the ball towards their own goal line for a maximum of three flicks without the ball passing over the half way line.  On the fourth occasion the figure and ball are replaced and possession passes to the other side.

The Kick-0ff

The teams must be positioned in the normal manner as in Association Football [1d]

If in the opinion of a referee a formation is unlike Association Football he can order the offender to alter his tactics [16b]

At the kick-off each side must have at least three figures within 90mm of the halfway line and the defending team must not have any figures within the centre circle.

No more than three figures may be placed in the defending area during a kick off [7a]

At a kick-off figures of any one side must be placed at least 25mm apart.

The figure taking the kick-off kicks the ball forward over the halfway line, after which that figure must not touch the ball again until the ball has been played by another figure of this same side.

The attacking side continues to play the ball until:

  • the figure misses the ball;
  • the ball is intercepted by an opposing stationary figure;
  • the ball is kicked out of play;
  • a foul is committed;
  • a goal is scored.

Interception

The last figure to intercept (touch) the ball in open play is ruled to be in possession.

Possession after a save: When the goalkeeper has made either a moving or a stationary save, and the ball remains in open play, possession of the ball remains with the attacking side, as in this case, the goalkeeper is neutral. 

 If after a shot is saved by the goalkeeper, the ball rebounds onto a defending figure, possession changes.

Where two figures touch the ball at the same time, the side last to play the ball assumes possession and it is their flick next. However, after the ball has been played, possession goes to the opposing side as the ball will have struck the opposing figure last.

Blocking Flicks and Defence  

As soon as the ball has been played once in their half, the defence may have three defending flicks (alternately with the attack’s normal flicks) for blocking. [15c] 

‘Played once in their half’ is taken to mean a kick by the attacking team when the ball is already in the oppositions half, not the pass which crosses the line. Therefore:

  • No blocking flick immediately after kick off
  • No blocking flick when the ball is passed and crosses the half way line into the defenders half; BUT
  • A blocking flick is allowed when the attacking team pass back from the defending half into their own half (as the ball was played in the defence’s half)

The attacking side must wait for the defence to take a blocking flick, unless the ball is in the area and the next flick by the attacking side is a shot on goal (either at a moving ball, or through claiming ‘shooting’)

If a defending figure touches the ball or fouls an opposing figure during this procedure, the attack may demand the replacing of the ball and player concerned  or play on. The defence in any case loses their remaining defensive flicks.  However:, 

  • During an attack, if the forwards pass back the defence immediately regain their full quota of defensive flicks [15c].
  • If during an attack the goalkeeper touches the ball, possession remains with the attack, but the defence regain their defensive flicks [15c]

Organising the defence

When the ball is in their possession, a side may organise their defence by moving up to four* figures into the shooting area they are defending, on one occasion per period of possession [7b]

Note: If four* or more figures are already in the area a player may not move figures into it, but may position four* of the figures already there

[Alternative: If agreed between both players, reorganisation of the defence may take place through flicking up to four figures into position, rather than by placing]

No figures may be placed inside the keeper’s area [7c]

Reorganisation of the defence can only take place when the ball is outside of either shooting area [7c]

No figure nearer the ball than a figure about to play the ball may be moved. [9c]

[Players may only be moved to reorganise if they are behind the ball (i.e. between the ball and their own goal line)]

If in the opinion of a referee the organised formation is unlike Association Football he can order the offender to alter his tactics [16b]

*Original ruled specified three figures, this has been increased to four, to reflect modern football formations.

The Goal Kick 

A goal kick is awarded to the defending side when the whole of the ball passes over the goal-line (either in the air or on the ground) after having last been deflected or played by a figure or goalkeeper of the attacking side.

The goal kick can be „forced“ only when the attacking figure, the defending figure and the ball are completely in the shooting area before the forcing flick is taken.

For a goal kick, each player may pick up his figures and place them anywhere, with the following exceptions:

  • No figure may be placed within 25mm of or inside the opposing shooting  area when positioning [15d]
  • Spacing of figures should be roughly 25mm at least [16a]
  • There must be no figures of either side in the penalty area, apart from the goal kick taker.

If in the opinion of a referee the placed formation is unlike Association Football he can order the offender to alter his tactics [16b]

The losing side has the right to state the length of time that elapses for the replacing of figures at a goal kick.

On taking the goal kick, the ball should leave the penalty area; if it does not, then the kick should be re-taken.

If the ball from a goal kick travels into the opposing area, irrespective of what it touches, it is defending side’s ball [12a]

Should the ball enter the defending side’s goal direct from a goal kick, then the goal does not count and a goal kick is awarded to the defending side.

The standing goalkeeper is used to take the goal kick. The standard goalkeeper is placed at the back of the goal.

The standing goalkeeper must not play the ball again until the ball has been touched by another figure.

 The Throw-In 

 A „throw-in“ is awarded when the ball has passed completely over the touch line. 

The „throw“ must be taken from the point where the ball crossed the touch-line.

The side taking the throw must place a figure for the throw; each side is then allowed one free positional flick with the attacking side flicking first. Buffeting of figures into position is not allowed.

When a throw in is being taken, no figure must approach within 90mm of where the throw in is taken, except when throw in is taken by attacking side within 90mm of the defending sides area [8a]

The ball is placed on the line and the figure, including its base, must not cross over nor obscure any part of the line before, during or after striking the ball. If the figure does cross over or obscure the line it is a „foul throw“ and the throw is awarded to the other side. If, however, the figure taking the throw subsequently rebounds off the fence surround and crosses the line onto the field of play, this does not count as a foul throw; the figure is placed on the touch-line where the throw was taken and play continues.

The figure taking the throw-in may not play the ball again until the ball has been touched by another figure.

The figure which took the throw-in is placed on the touch-line at the point where the throw-in was taken.

In the event of a foul throw, before any play proceeds, the figure which committed the foul throw is placed by the referee in the field of play 90 mm from the side line (where the foul throw was committed) parallel to the goal line.

‚Forcing‘ a throw-in off an opponent: 

  • A throw-in can be forced in the shooting area’ provided that the ball and the defending figure are within the shooting area before the flick is taken, the attacking figure is in the opposing sides half  and that the ball crosses the touch line within the area.
  • Throw ins cannot be forced between the shooting areas. [2b]

Between the areas, the throw in goes to the team which was not in possession (players hit by the ball during its passage into touch are, in this case, neutral).

When the ball rebounds off the goalkeeper or its handle and goes into touch, then the throw is awarded to the opposing side.

Off-side at throw-ins: When a throw is taken and the ball has stopped moving, an automatic onside flick can be requested for the figure that took the throw-in. The defending side is not entitled to a blocking flick.

[Throw ins may not cross more than one quarter line of the pitch, or beyond the centre of the pitch. Otherwise either a) the throw is retaken or b) foul throw]

If a throw in from the attacking side’s own shooting area enters the shooting  area of the opposition, possession changes to the other side.

The Corner Kick

A corner kick is awarded:

  • if the attacking side plays the ball over its own goal line;
  • if the ball is forced over the goal line, off a defending figure, provided that the defending figure and ball are in the shooting area and the attacking figure is in the opposing side’s half. If these conditions are not satisfied, a goal kick is awarded to the defending side.

A goal can be scored direct from the corner kick.

The ball must be placed on or within the quarter circle at the side where the ball crossed the goal line.

The figure taking the corner must not play the ball again until the ball has been touched by another figure.

The figure taking the kick is placed at the corner; each side then takes three positional flicks, with the attacking side flicking first. Buffeting of figures into position is not allowed.

The figure taking the kick can be moved from any part of the pitch.

When taking the corner kick, there should be no defending figures within 90mm of the ball.

Offside at corners: When a corner kick is taken, and the ball has stopped moving, an automatic onside flick can be requested for the corner kicker, the defending side is not entitled to a blocking flick to cover the corner kicker. However, one shot for goal, while the ball is still moving, is allowed. The figure taking the corner would not be deemed offside in this situation.

Either hand can be used to take the corner kick and subsequent moves, enabling the ball to be hit whilst moving.

Goal Scoring

Before a goal can be scored or a shot taken at goal, the best part of the ball must be over the shooting area line [16f].

The attacking figure shooting for goal must be fully inside his opponent’s half before a shot can be taken.

If the ball goes into the net and the above is not complied with, a goal kick is awarded to the defending side.

The ball must be completely over the goal line before a goal is scored.

The figure must be flicked in the correct manner. 

The attacking side does not have to wait for the goalkeeper to be in a ready position.

Once the best part of the ball is over the shooting line the attacking player does not have to wait for the defending team to take any outstanding blocking flicks before taking a shot at goal.  In order to cancel the outstanding block flick the attacker states ‘shooting’. Otherwise (if the attacking player is not shooting) the defender is entitled to take the blocking flicks.

Own goal:

  • Any ball which is passed back by the defending side from within its own half and which goes into its own goal, counts as an ‚own goal‘;
  • For any ball entering the goal directly from the other half, a corner kick is awarded.

Any ball that is dragged into the goal by the goalkeeper, after the ball has stopped moving, is a goal.

Any shot rebounding off either the goalkeeper or the goalposts and going into the opposite goal does not count as a goal, and a goal kick is awarded.

Foul Play and Free Kicks

Offences

It is a foul if one figure hits an opposing figure before touching the ball – a goalkeeper cannot be fouled [5a].If not taken, the fouled team may either a) play on immediately; or b) return the offending figure to its original position before proceeding.
[A foul is only committed if the bases of the figure come into contact, otherwise it is considered to be legal contact between the two players]
Punishment is a free kick or penalty which need not be taken [5a]

  • If this occurs outside the shooting area, an indirect free-kick is awarded.
  • If it occurs inside the shooting area, a direct free-kick is awarded.
  • If it occurs inside the penalty box, a penalty is awarded.

A figure hitting the upright and then hitting an opponent is no foul [5b]

A figure away from the touchline can be fouled [5c]

Ball hitting figure lying down is handball (free kick). If in the penalty area it is a penalty (N.B. Referee should give player reasonable time to stand a figure up [5d]

If a player’s hand stops the ball from entering the net, it is a penalty [5e] 

If either player intentionally touches the ball with his hand, a free kick is awarded at the point of offence. 

  • If it occurs outside the shooting area, an indirect free kick is awarded.
  • If it occurs inside the shooting area, a direct free kick is awarded.
  • If it occurs inside the penalty box, a penalty is awarded.

If an attacking figure is flicked at the ball (directly) four times in succession, an indirect free-kick is awarded at the position of that figure at the time of the offence.

For offside, an indirect free-kick is awarded.

If, following a kick-off, the same figure plays the ball a second time before the ball has touched another figure, then an indirect free kick is awarded at the position of the offending figure at the time of the offence. This rule also applies following a free kick, a corner kick, a goal kick, a penalty kick or a throw-in.

Taking Free Kicks

For indirect and direct free kicks the figure taking the kick may be taken from anywhere on the pitch. 

When positioning players for Free Kicks:

  • For a free kick, there should be no defending figures within 90mm of the ball.
  • Four*  figures only may be placed in the defending area during a free kick, unless free kick is taken inside the defending area by the attack in which case five* figures may be positioned [7a]
  • No additional attacking  figures may be placed within 25mm of or inside the opposing area when positioning [15d]
  • Spacing of figures should be roughly 25mm at least [16a]

*The original rules stated three and four figures respectively. These have been increased to reflect modern football formations

[Alternative: If agreed between both players, positioning of figures at free kicks may involve the flicking of two figures into position, rather than by reorganising the entire side through placing]

If in the opinion of a referee a formation is unlike Association Football he can order the offender to alter his tactics [16b]

A ball from a free kick in one area must not go direct into the opposing area unless it touches one of the attacking sides figures before entering [12b]. If it does so possession changes to the other side.

The defending side at the time of free flicks is the last to move a figure

The Penalty Kick

When a penalty kick is taken, the base of the goalkeeper must be touching the goal line. The goalkeeper must remain stationary until the kick is taken. 

The player taking the penalty shall, after setting up his shot, take his hands well away from the pitch until the referee signals ‚carry on‘. The penalty is then taken without delay.

All figures, apart from the goalkeeper and the penalty taker, must be outside the penalty area. The kick Is taken from the penalty spot. 

After the figure has been flicked and the ball kicked, provided that there have been no infringements, the kick is deemed to have been taken and the normal rules of possession apply.

Offside

A figure is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponent’s goalline than the ball, unless:

  • that figure is outside the shooting area; or
  • there are at least two of his opponent’s figures (including the goalkeeper) nearer to their own goal than he is.

At least one defending figure, other than the goalkeeper, must be in the shooting area before offside can be claimed.

A figure in an offside position is not actually offside until the ball is past the last defending figure (excluding goalkeepers) and a figure is offside whether the ball is passed to that figure or not.

If, through the play of his opponent, a figure in an offside position receives the ball, he is not offside as this was not a pass forward from his own side.

A player in a potentially offside position can be flicked to play for the ball, providing the ball is not already in a position which makes the player offside.

No figure can be offside immediately from the taking of a goal kick, corner kick, or throw-in. Two flicks must be taken, including the goal kick, corner kick or throw-in, before a figure can be offside.

A figure in an offside position may be flicked on-side at any time by a player after having asked permission of the referee. The following rules apply:

  • The side requesting the flick must be in possession of the ball.
  • The figure flicked on-side should not touch an opposing figure.

The figure may not be flicked onside and then flicked to touch the ball in consecutive flicks

[According to football laws, however, it is not an offence for a man to be in an offside position providing he does not interfere with play or opponents, or attempt to do so. This is the point the referee has to decide.]

If (in regard to a figure offside) a goal is scored and given by the referee before the figure is noticed in that position it is a goal [13a]

Figures Leaving the Field of Play

A figure can leave the field of play after being flicked and return to the field to play the ball (that is, if it swerves back on to the field) provided that it does not leave the green baize or touch any perimeter fencing. If this occurs, then the figure should be placed at the point on the touch line where it first left the field of play and possession goes to the opposing side.

If a figure is flicked successfully at the ball but subsequently leaves the field of play, it may be placed on the touch-line at the point where it left the field, or it may be flicked from off the field, provided that it does not leave the green baize, or touch any perimeter fencing or any other accessory..

A figure travelling into the goal, whether a defending figure or an attacking figure, shall be placed on the goal line just outside the goalkeeper’s area.

A figure leaving the field of play should be replaced immediately on the line at the point where it left the field.

The Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper including the handle are as one, and any part of it can make a save, deflect the ball into the goal, or concede a corner or throw-in. 

A goalkeeper cannot be fouled 

Any figure from the previous attack, which is still in the goalkeeper’s area after possession has been lost, is moved at once to the nearest goal line.

If a defending player tries to adjust his goalkeeper and the ball hits his hand, a penalty is awarded.

If the goalkeeper on the handle touches the ball outside his box, whether in possession or not, a penalty is awarded. 

The goalkeeper must not be waved ‚to and fro‘ in the air or on the ground, nor must it be flicked by the handle at the ball.

The goalkeeper’s handle must not raise the net at the rear of the goal.

The goalkeeper must not be raised from the playing surface prior to a shot at goal.

Before a shot is taken the goalkeeper must not be tilted more than 45 degrees from the vertical.

If a shot at goal is unsuccessful as a result of an infringement of any of these rules, then the attacking side may request ‚Back‘. If the ‚Back‘ claim is allowed, the ball and figures are returned to their former positions and the shot is retaken. If the ‚Back‘ claim is rejected, the game continues as normal.

Possession after a save: When the goalkeeper has made a save and the ball returns to open play, possession of the ball remains with the attacking side. 

[If the ball returns to play from the keeper, bar or post then possession passes to the team whose player is closest to the ball once it comes to rest.]

[If the ball is saved by the keeper and it remains within the 6 yard box, it is deemed to have been caught by the keeper, and possession changes.]

The Standing Goalkeeper:

  • The goalkeeper on the handle may be replaced by the standing goalkeeper. This may be used to take goal-kicks and to play the ball outside the keeper’s box. The standing goalkeeper can be flicked from anywhere within the goalkeeper’s box, and the area immediately behind it. The standing goalkeeper may only be used by the side in possession of the ball.
  • When the standing goalkeeper is brought into use, the standard goalkeeper must either be taken out of the goal or be pushed well to the back of the goal.
  • After a goal kick has been taken, the standing goalkeeper should be removed from the playing area and replaced with the standard goalkeeper.
  • Once on the field, the standing goalkeeper becomes subject to the rules of the game as for a normal figure.
  • Standing keeper can play the ball twice in the shooting area and once outside. If he misses the ball he must stay in his position until his side regains possession of the ball [11b]
  • If a standing goalkeeper is on the field and the standard goalkeeper makes a save, a goal should be awarded. The normal rules of goal scoring apply.
  • The standing goalkeeper must be kept well away from the field when not in use.

Substitutes and Injuries

 Should a figure be damaged during the game, it may be taken away from the field for repair. This is done quickly and no „injury time“ should be allotted. If a noticeable amount of time is taken, this „extra“ or „injury time“ can be added to the normal time. Alternatively, damaged figures can be substituted. Only two substitutions are allowed during any game. This does not apply to the goalkeeper, which can be replaced at any time.

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