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Peter Upton's

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Subbuteo in the 21st Century

Longshore/University Games 2020 onwards.....

The Subbuteo game licence switched owners in 2020. Netcam, a Spanish company had acquired a licence to produce a new version of the game in 2012, but they seem to have disappeared around 2016, and the licensed products from then until 2020 were produced by Hasbro's Spanish distributor Eleven Force. In the UK, the much smaller range that we were granted, was distributed by Paul Lamond Games.

In 2020 it was announced that Hasbro had a new "Global Partner" for their Subbuteo products, a Hong Kong company called Longshore Limited. As with the Netcam years, Longshore are to use an established list of distributors to bring the products to market. The original list is University Games in UK and Ireland, Megableu in France, Creative Toys in Portugal, Giochi Preziosi in Italy, and Greece, Eleven Force in Spain and (interestingly) Broadway Toys Limited in Asia Pacific. Once again, each individual market area is being supplied with a unique range of products - so there is a distinct lack of a united range, and collectors are left having to import products from the different markets to get any sense of the full range.

The official website has been re-launched, and it does have a list of products which is worth keeping an eye on. It also has a list of the distributor websites, and visiting all of these will sometimes show other products.

University Games - This is the website of the UK distributors.


UK and Ireland - University Games.

Netcam's UK and Ireland distributor was Paul Lamond Limited, and they have been merged into the bigger University Games company. Their website still shows a number of Paul Lamond teams and products, most of which are covered in detail on the Netcam page.

3005: Official Game Playset.

 

The official website says the following about the new range - "After a year of research and development, Longshore Limited in conjunction with Hasbro, are set to launch the first product within the new range the Official Game Playset.... Featuring a greater level of detail, high-quality pitch, re-engineered base, goals and accessories, fans will be delighted to see the product return to its premium standard, allowing players to pull off chip shots and swerve flicks."

This is worth highlighting, because the University Games range started with a standard set, that looks almost identical to the Paul Lamond set from 2012. There are a few differences - notably with regard to the design of the players. These are still the "flexible" rubbery players of the Netcam era, but they do have a slightly different look. Described as a more muscular modern player by Longshore, this is achieved at the expense of making the teams look more "cartoony". The quote on the England box says "This team features stronger, more detailed and better quality players than ever before....". If you compare the team to the 2017 generic releases from Paul Lamond, you would say that this quote has merit. The faces are better, and the shirt distinctive. It makes the detail on the earlier teams look very poor in comparison. However, if you count "ever before" as covering the heavyweights, or even lightweights of years past, I am afraid the new teams still fall short on detail.

3365: UEFA Champions League Set.

This one is an updated version of the 2016 Paul Lamond set. The new edition has the same plastic insert as the other Longshore sets. The all-white and all-red teams have been updated onto the new Longshore figure, and pleasingly have an even mix of white and black skinned players. So the set can be seen as an improvement. You won't need both though.....

LS-026329: Official England Game Playset.

   

For the same price as the standard playset, the official England version has a simple England kit as one of the teams. It is worth pointing out that this is an official side, and features the proper "three lions" England badge, which is something that previous licence holders Netcam/Eleven Force, never managed.

8421: Official Lionesses Game (2021).

   

The third new UK set from Longshore is this alternative England set, featuring the England Women's Team, showing the encouraging rise in profile of the Women's Game. Whilst a promotional Women's FA Cup Final set was produced in 2018, this is the first mass-market table soccer set with female players. Judging by how long I've been watching the women's Euros and World Cups, it is probably a little overdue.

As the distinctive part of this set, a lot of love has been lavished on the female players. The England team is a recreation of the current ladies outfit, with bold red cuffs, and the proper three lions badge. Pleasingly distinctive to the male version. The ladies have a wide range of hair colours and styles, and of course, the usual Longshore racial mix. The opponents are a simple red/white team, that gives a range of opponents such as Wales or Denmark.

Beyond the teams, the set is identical to the other Longshore ones. So you get the usual insert, only one ball, the thin pitch and the rather cheap looking goals that have become the norm. It doesn't matter though. This is the pick of the range. A brave release, and an encouraging one. Let's hope it encourages a few girls to take up our hobby.

The75th Anniversary Official Game (due July 2022). 

The green box prototype illustration alongside the real dark version.

The 75th Anniversary Limited Edition had its release pushed back from April 2022 to July 2022. The University Games website, and some online retailers now have an updated picture of the set showing the dark box first shown at the January 2022 trade fair. This looks smarter, and is now shown above.

The limited edition will feature a golden ball and corner flays, adorned with the 75th Anniversary logo (which I assume is the logo on the box). From a collectors point of view, I'd have liked some form of limited edition team as well, rather than the standard red and blue, but I guess you can't have anything.

Official Liverpool Main Game (due May 2022).

  

Netcam released two official English club editions back in 2015, featuring Arsenal and Liverpool. This is the first official club set to be announced in the UK since then, and once again it is a Liverpool set. Alongside it, will be an official Liverpool team set.

May 2022:- The date of release for these sets pushed back from April to May 2022, and even that seems optimistic (this update is equally late!). At least the images on the distributor's website have been updated to show the actual product rather than a simple artist's impression. The Liverpool team is shown above. With real life football kits changing on an annual basis, it seemed risky to release an official product in April/May. However, Longshore seem to have taken the sensible option here of just adding the Liverbird and chest advert to an all-red kit. There is a limit to how much the Liverpool kit can change before this looks wrong. Actually, Liverpool did take all their white trim off for 2022-23 anyway, so an easy one to cover.

The Pretty Green Set 2022.

   

I'm not sure if this is the way things are going for Subbuteo, but here is an officially licensed set produced for fashion brand Pretty Green. According to the web, they are a men's fashion brand founded by Liam Gallagher in 2009, and they take inspiration from the 1960s (I'm a geek. It's fashion. I had to google it). This means lots of rather stylish parkers. So you can look like a 1960s mod, or Oasis in the 1990s, or perhaps more appropriately, Fergal Sharkey in the Undertones strutting around to "My Perfect Cousin". I digress.

In 2022 the brand linked up with Hasbro to produce a range of Subbuteo branded clothing, but they also decided to produce a Subbuteo set to go along with it (like a high fashion M&S range without the shower gel). Actually, the words "pretty" and "green" kind of describe the set quite well. The box, ball and pitch have been spruced up with their swirly logo, and iconic paisley print. Meantime, the players have been amended to match a photo of Liam Gallagher and rival Damon Albarn playing in a charity football match in the 1990s (okay less playing, more rutting). So the team of Liam look-a-likes wear a cricket hat and tracksuit bottoms, and the Damon team are spotting beanies. Clearly taking the football very seriously...

The UK Team Range.

     

Whilst the University Games website has a number of older teams available, the only one to be officially released in the Longshore era is this official England side. Pleasingly for collectors, UG have continued with the old Paul Lamond numbering. The Unofficial "Celtic" was PLG3465, and this one is PLG 3485.

November 2021: It has been noticed that the generic claret and blue kit (West Ham, Aston Villa, Burnley) has been re-issued in a new box with the Longshore figures. I hope that the other teams will do the same thing as the old stock at University Games is exhausted.

February 2022: University Games have announced an official Liverpool team, due to release in April 2022 (put back to May) alongside their official box set. Will other sides follow? No other teams are shown in the new style boxes as yet.
November 2022: Stock in the UK seems to be sadly lacking, but Italian toy outlets have the equivalent of the Newcastle Utd (Juventus) and Manchester City (Lazio) in the new figures. See below for details.

Accessories.

LS-030415 Official Fence Set.
LS-030414 Official Referees Set.
     

The official website states that the fence is only available in the UK, although the resulting box picture is clearly not an English Language one. The referees set is carried over from the Netcam range. I assume it will be superseded by the VAR version of this set (currently only available in Portugal). Confused?


France and Belgium - Megableu

LS-026280 Jeu Official France - Belgique.

Megableu have French World Cup winning legend Christian Karembeu as their Subbuteo Ambassador, and he features in their advertisement for the game. It has to be said that the advert shows the set produced by the previous Netcam licence. The Longshore set is described as France vs Belgium, but this is a bit of a stretch - it has the standard blue/white and red/white teams from the basic set. The website also shows a small range of teams, and the two standard accessory sets - referees and balls. I suspect these are from the previous Netcam range. In the illustration, the Brazil team looks like it is actually the Netcam Norwich City.... but I've no idea how accurate these illustrations are.

678325: Official French Edition.
678267: Official Marseille Edition

 

May 2021: Two more French sets have arrived on the official website. The first has an official French national team and brings the French range in line with the UK one, with both a generic and a more attractive national version. The French national set has a very striking box, featuring real-life players. This reflects back to the official Spain set that was released under the old "Netcam/Eleven Force" licence in 2018-19, and is something University Games in the UK have yet to do. Will the French distributors match this with a female version?

A new official Marseille version has also been released. This has the familiar kicking/heading footballer illustrations in front of the relevant stadium. Again, this is a reflection/continuation of the earlier box set ranges. It is certainly hard to argue that this is a new era for Subbuteo.....


Portugal - Creative Toys

Spot the difference here too, as the first Portuguese product is a very familiar looking set. The Portuguese market was the first to see an expanded referees set, which features a VAR screen.

Team Range.

 

What is unusual about the new Portuguese teams is that they are female teams. There are two currently available, and I assume they are Portugal's home and away kits.

Accessory Range.

Portugal is the first territory to receive this expanded referees set. In the 2000s we saw the fourth official and his board be introduced... and now we have a VAR screen to consult.


Italy - Giochi Preziosi (Rocco Gioccatolli?)

The Italian distributors have a decent range of Subbuteo products on their website, but at present they all seem to be from the existing "Netcam" era range. As of March 2021 this was the Champions League edition (blue team), the Juventus and AC Milan editions, the Italian Edition, and the Retro sets (Napoli, Roma, Lazio and Inter) featuring partwork sides, six generic Champions League teams, and official teams for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and AC Milan. See the Netcam Subbuteo page for details of this sets.

April 2023: Astrobase have a Maradona special edition box set which features a special Maradona figure in a Napoli team (albeit unlicensed). The Maradona sets are currently detailed in the Spanish section of this site, but that might change when I've worked out which distributors are responsible!

Team Range.

 

November 2022: As suggested in the Greece section below, Giochi Preziosi have issued similar team ranges in both their regions, with the Milan team colours looking much more sensible in an Italian range. The "Newcastle United" team repeats in this range as Juventus/Udinese. Also added is the "Manchester City" team on the modern figure as Lazio/Napoli. New to this range though, is an unlicensed Roma team in a rich red with amber trim/badge.

The other important Longshore product in the Italian range is the new rubber backed Astropitch. This product was promised some time ago, but to be honest, they seem pretty hard to track down. I assume that only the Italian distributor was confident of selling enough of them.


Greece - Giochi Preziosi (Greece)

The official version for the Greek market features the flags of Italy, Greece, Spain and Belgium. Not sure how significant this is, although Giochi Preziosi are also distributors from Italy, so there is potential for them to use the same set in both markets. The Greek market is the first one to receive a team range (outside of the official England side). These teams are not simply reissues of similar Netcam teams, as they have the new more detailed figures.

Team Range.


Spain - Eleven Force.

As previous licence holders Netcam were based in Spain, this was a region that had lots of products in the previous era, and distributor Eleven Force were also the manufacturer of Subbuteo once the Netcam name disappeared circa 2015-16. As with Italy, the distributor website is still crowded with boxed editions of the game, but all are currently from the previous incarnation. As of March 2021 this included the current versions of the Barcelona (4th Edition), Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid play sets, most of the Retro Sets (including the Argentina and Brazil versions), the Tenerife playset, the Atalanta play set, a couple of the giant figures, and some keyrings. These are not the most exciting product, but at least they are new.... so I've illustrated this section with one.

Set 15556 Maradona Edition.

The original "prototype" box picture from Amazon.

When this set first appeared (as a preview really) on Amazon, we hadn't seen any new "Eleven Force" sets for over a year after Longshore obtained the licence, beyond updating the colours in their club sets. Eleven Force had previously expanded their boxset range by borrowing the teams from the Italian "lightweight" partwork, which seem to have been over-produced (see box sets in the 21st Century). The representative picture had an illustration of different team kits which Maradona would have worn during his career, and I had fun speculating on whether these would be produced in the new flexible figure, or whether old partwork teams would do the trick (especially as a couple of Maradona's club sides had not been produced).

  

Sadly, the box lid on Amazon has proved to be a prototype, and what has been produced is still interesting, but less impressive. What we have is more standard Longshore release "club editions", with the same interior and basic parts as all their other sets. What we do seem to have currently is two different variations. I'm assuming the Argentina version is for the Spanish market (although it was spotted on UK retailer Subbuteoworld). This set does feature the first official flexible Subbuteo team produced in Argentina's colours, and that might be reason enough for some to seek it out. The Maradona figure uses the modern player mould with the big hair, but also has a gold base, which makes him stand out from his team mates (whilst not clashing with the standard all-red opposition side provided luckily). The box has been produced in an attractive sky-blue, and Maradona's signature does appear on the lid (as it did in the original image).

Meanwhile in Italy, the Astrobase website is selling an almost identical set, but featuring Maradona in Napoli colours. Again, the opposition is wearing all red, and Maradona has his gold base. The ball looks as if it has a No. 10 decal, but as Astrobase are offering a more expensive set with modern Napoli details (to celebrate the 2023 Scudetto), I am not sure whether this is officially part of the set yet.

Edicin Mundial (2022)

 

For the 2022 World Cup, Eleven Force in Spain released this simple (unofficial) World Cup Edition featuring (unofficial) Spain and Brazil teams in the new Longshore style. It featured the standard new box interior, plus the 75th Anniversary logo.

14306: UEFA Champions League Edition (Spanish Version).

The official Subbuteo website lists this one separately, but it seems to be an identical set to the UK version.

14276: Real Madrid Game Set.
14283: Barcelona Game Set.
14290: Atletico Madrid Game Set.

   

Eleven Force continue to release updated game editions for the big three in Spain. These are the first of their Longshore editions, and they adopt the new style of figure. The Barcelona set has appeared at the website of UK distributor University games, and their retailers (such as Crafty Arts). I'm not sure if this has an official UK release though, as the price is much higher than the other UK sets.


Asia Pacific - Broadway Toys Limited.

This distributor has the potential to be interesting - if unique teams are produced. However, the standard blue/white and red/white set would cover Japan vs South Korea, so I suspect that is what they will get..... Lots of the Asian national sides seem to play in an all-red kit, so that would be another easy release for this market. As yet, I've seen nothing.


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