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Peter Upton's

Newfooty Tribute Website.

or 90 Years of Table Football.

The Newfooty Rules - Pre-Subbuteo Era.

Newfooty was the fore-runner to Subbuteo Table Soccer, and can lay claim to being the original finger flicking table soccer game (if you don't count bottle tops or coins). It was first produced in 1929 by William L. Keeling from his home in Liverpool. Newfooty was also a bitter rival to Subbuteo in the 1950s, and advertised itself as "the Original Game". There was certainly the feeling that Peter Adolph had "borrowed" heavily from Newfooty when producing his own table top game, and by the 1950s, the games do look pretty similar with regard to the size of the pieces and the methods of play. 

Pre-war Newfooty sets are quite thin on the ground, and unlike Subbuteo I am not sure if the original 1929 edition has even been correctly identified. However, the 1930s sets do share a simple rules sheet with both the wartime editions and the 1947 set, which was the final year of the original simple lead bases.

This page covers that rule sheet, plus an additional "rules for experienced players" sheet which seems to have arrived in the late 1930s. These rules are the version of Newfooty that was available before Subbuteo came on the scene, and are therefore "pure" Newfooty before any influence the rivals might have had on each other. These are the rules designed to work with the simple solid, flat lead bases and card figures. In the 1950s, Newfooty incorporated their rules into a deluxe Official Handbook, and those are dealt with here.

If you are looking for "proof" that Subbuteo was a rip-off of Newfooty, you can probably make your case here. However, you can also find plenty of differences (not least in flicking techniques) if you want to argue that the game wasn't actually that huge an influence on Peter Adolph. As I've mentioned elsewhere on this website, bottle cap football pre-dates both games, and if you are flicking "tokens" at a "ball" then the solution is always going to be fairly similar. With any of these games, there are points where you are going to have to represent events in real Association Football in a rather abstract way. It is interesting to see where the inventors of Newfooty and Subbuteo come to the same conclusion as to how to represent the game, and where they sharply divide.

As always with this site, the quoted rules are in italics, and have not been corrected by me in any way. Any notes on rules I have felt I needed to add are in my normal typeface.

The "Newfooty Game". Rules sheet 1930s-1947.

A single, thin sheet of tiny text, printed on both sides.


THE "NEWFOOTY" GAME is acknowledged as the finest table football invention, being full of real football thrills and excitement. The playing pieces, called men, or players, are flicked with the finger, in the manner described in the special instructions, and away they go. They are designed so that they tend to return to the upright position when they stop, yet permit high shots as well as low ones to be possible.

The sheet in the 1947 edition of the game suffers from a misprinting, where the first paragraph was amended to the nonsense below. At this point, the new plastic topped bases were arriving, and Will Keeling was trying to explain that they should now always return to an upright position. It just all got muddled up. Not a great start to the set.

(...The playing pieces, called men, or players, are flicked with the finger, in the manner described in the special instructions, to the upright position when they stop, yet permit high shots as and away they go. They are designed so that they tend to return well as low ones to be possible.)

After that, we're back to normal.

One unique advantage that "THE NEWFOOTY" GAME has over other table football games is that it is not always essential to wait for the ball to stop before taking your next turn, it can at times by skilful play be played while it is rolling: for example by quickly playing a convenient man at the ball as it is travelling across the goal-mouth, the forward may dash in and score, just as in football; passes from own men can be accepted or others intercepted if the ball is going towards an opponent, or ball prevented from passing outside by quick play, while the ball going over the cross-bar on unexpected occasions increases the fun. These are some of the special features of THE "NEWFOOTY" GAME.

There are two ways of playing the game; both are entertaining, play being faster in one than the other, the Opponents' Counter-move having been introduced for those who prefer a slower game.

The parts are placed in position similar to football, on a level table with a cloth on - the cloth should not be linen but one of the rougher coloured variety, and if more than two people play they form sides, take up convenient positions around the table and arrange to take their turns according to the position of the ball. Time game is to last should be arranged and ends changed at half-time.

If you wish to make the game more real you can mark the bases with the positions of the different men, for example, Centre-forward would be marked "C.F." It is easily done on the plain bases with any fairly sharp instrument, a hard pencil with do. If you desire to be able to distinguish the men with plain bases more easily from their opponents, you can put a mark on the bases of one team, so you can see from above straight away if it is your man, by the fact it is marked or plain. Should you like to adopt both these suggestions then you should put the position of the man in one half of the base and your distinguishing sign on the other. Opponents would just be marked with positions on one half and the other half left plain.

It is worth pointing out at this stage that shirt numbering didn't actually become widespread in the UK until after 1933, and not compulsory in England until 1939, both dates being later than Newfooty's introduction.


Place the finger close behind the man, the back of the finger being nearest to the player, and allowing part of the finger nail to rest on the table. Press the finger down gently, and at the same time move it sharply forward, moving it from the middle joint for preference. Hold your hand still and don't use your thumb at all. Distance is regulated by force applied.

There are no illustrations here, but the description and picture in the 1950s leaflets suggest a flick similar to the Subbuteo method, which is obvious if you think about it. The "back of the finger being nearest to the player" is a rather odd description, but wording elsewhere suggests the nail is on the back of the finger (because the nails are on the back of the hand as opposed to the palm). The later 1950s booklets do muddy the waters a little though, because they suggest a Subbuteo style flick for normal play (especially for shooting), but more of a back-of-the-finger flick at other times. The hand is in a completely different position for the back flick, and the middle finger actually becomes more comfortable in this style.

As THE "NEWFOOTY" GAME is a game of skill it requires practice to become expert at ball control, which enables you to pass and shoot from all sorts of angles and positions.

MEASUREMENTS. - Table, fairly large. Touch line, about 1.5 inches from the edge of it. Goal area, 3 inches each side of posts and 3 inches forward. Penalty area, 8 inches each side of posts and 8 inches forward. Penalty kick spot, 6 inches from goal line. Centre-line, half-way between the two goals.

Will Keeling firms up his preferred table size in the 1950s handbooks. Here, he's letting his players take advantage of any space they can find.


KICK-OFF AND ORDER OF PLAY. Play the centre forward against the ball with the finger as directed in special instructions (see over). If the ball remains in play and has not touched an opponent, flick another player towards it. Should this player miss the ball, then opponents take their turn.

The side whose player last touches or is touched by the ball continues to play until they miss the ball, throw-in or free-kick occurs, goal is scored, or ball comes within reach of opponents' goalkeeper. When convenient ball can be played while it is rolling. A goal cannot be scored until both the player and the ball are in the same half as the goal. Any man playing ball more than four times in succession must pass to another man before goal can be scored. When a player falls over, then a different man must be played next turn.

FREE KICKS, including Goal Kicks, Penalty, and Corner Kicks. Place ball in position corresponding to that in actual football or where infringement occurred and the man an inch from it - opponents standing clear, - then flick the man against the ball.

THROW-IN. Place man and ball together an inch over touch line where ball passed out, then play ball in, but man must not cross the line.

FOUL occurs if men or ball are not played as instructed.

FOUL CHARGE occurs if when playing a man touching an opponent the opponent is also moved, or when a player charges an opponent over.

DANGEROUS PLAY occurs if when playing own man touching another of own side both are moved. Goal cannot be scored direct from free-kick.

FOUL THROW-IN occurs if the throw-in is not taken correctly. Throw-in is retaken by opponents.

OFFSIDE is as in football. A man in an offside position is not considered offside until played towards the ball or the ball is played on to the man by own side. Place all men in offside positions onside before taking free-kick.

PLAYERS OUT OF POSITION may be adjusted before a goal-kick is taken, but must not be moved towards opponents' goal. Men crossing touch line or own goal line resume from point they crossed the line, but if they cross opponents' goal line they resume from centre. Before taking a Throw-in or Corner kick one attempt may be made to flick a man into a convenient position, opponents may then do likewise. Goalkeeper must only be moved by the wire from back of goal.

If a referee is appointed his decision is final. When in doubt about a decision, toss up and winner continues to play, but if ball is touching men of both sides at the same time, separate them about an inch first.


The ordinary rules are followed, but the order of play is altered. Each time a kick is taken and side playing allows ball to stop before taking next turn (except after any Free Kick or when ball is played direct on to another of own men). then the opposition is allowed a turn in which to try and play a man into any position desired, but the ball must not be kicked or any of opponents' men charged out of position, otherwise it is a Foul. In this way it might be possible to prevent opponent getting in a shot or pass, by using the countermove to advantage, playing the man directly in front of ball or between it and opponents' most suitable player.

Here is a first attempt at "blocking flicks", a way of forcing a possession change among players too good to make these mistakes in normal play. It is not retained into the 1950s.

A small separate sheet was later produced with additional rules that could be used. I assume these were ideas that came up during play.


A new goalkeeper has been introduced and it is possible to take the man off the holder for use as an ordinary player under the following rule:-

GOALKEEPER may be taken off the holder and flicked at the ball from any point the wire holder will reach, but should the man miss the ball or play it on to an opponent, the opposition take their next turn while goalkeeper remains out of goal. The goalkeeper must not play the ball more than three times in succession inside the Penalty Area, otherwise it is a foul for carrying the ball, and can only play the ball once outside of the area.

A GOAL CANNOT BE SCORED UNTIL the ball is nearer to the opponents goal than it is to centre line and the man must be in the same half of the field. Essentially this is the arrival of a shooting area in Newfooty.

A MAN IN AN OFFSIDE POSITION is adjudged offside if he is the nearest man to the ball. When a man is flicked into an offside position or thrown offside by defence being played up the field, the player may be put onside in own half providing no attempt has been made to play the ball by side concerned while the man was in the offside position.

A PASS CAN BE FORCED whenever side in play allow ball to stop and an opponents' man other than the goalkeeper, is the nearest player to the ball. Opposition call "PASS!" and side in play must flick their man that is nearest to the ball next turn and try to pass to another of own players.

The pass is only successful if the ball stops nearest to another of own men, or the man accepts the pass as ball is rolling, or ball is played on to the man. If pass succeeds by second or third method and enters net it is a goal. Should pass fail the opponents play next turn.

(Opponents' Countermove Rule is now Cancelled).

This extra "a pass can be forced" rule is a completely different way of dealing with the problem of one player keeping possession too long, which will happen with more experienced players. You can also see why it can't live alongside the Countermove. It does look difficult to referee if you are encouraging playing with a moving ball, but it does take the game in a different direction. Again, this isn't used in the 1950s, although you are allowed to intercept a long pass at that stage.

That's the early rules. Follow the link to see how Newfooty changes in the 1950s to meet the Subbuteo challenge.

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