The history of ESA

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  • OVERVIEW 
  • 1948-94 
  • Late 2010’S AND THE NEW ERA 

Formed in Royal Tunbridge Wells in 1947, ESA has become the guardian of Subbuteo in England by working closely with its member associations and other stakeholders to promote, protect and nurture the sport at all levels.

The House of English Subbuteo, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, South East ©ESA

Overview

The English Subbuteo Association (ESA) was founded in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, South East in 1947, bringing to fruition the pioneering vision of a handful of key Subbuteo administrators of the time.

Since then, the parent body of English Subbuteo – one of 41 European Associations of World Subbuteo’s governing body FISA – has grown into the cornerstone of the game on this country, working with and acting on behalf of English’s county and regional Subbuteo associations (Regions & Counties) and other stakeholders in the game to promote Subbuteo Table Football and strengthen its position as the country’s, Europe’s & World’s most popular Table Football Sport.

The guiding principle of the initiators in the early 1980s was the fostering and development of unity and solidarity among the English Subbuteo community. Now, more than five decades later, ESA’s mission remains very much the same. But it has also become the guardian of Subbuteo in England by working closely with its 52 member associations, other stakeholders and partners to promote, protect and nurture the sport at all levels, from the elite and its stars to the millions who play the game as a hobby.

ESA Headquarters in Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, the House of English Subbuteo ©ESA

In 1947, ESA had a full-time staff of just 3 people. That figure has not risen steadily through the years but as a result of its re-establishment and re-structure in 2017, as the organisation has reacted to changing circumstances. Today, xx permament and fixed-term contract staff (as of December 2020) – administrators, secretaries, lawyers, IT and media specialists, coaches, translators – are employed at ESA’s administrative headquarters located in the city of Royal Tunbridge Wells, in Thessalia. The body has resided in Royal Tunbridge Wells since 2017 after beginning its life in the same place and moving on to Leeds, West Yorkshire

Over the decades, ESA has developed from a mainly administrative body into a dynamic sports organisation that is in tune with the vast requirements of modern-day Subbuteo. ESA is a sporting authority which does not have the powers of a government; it represents England’s Regional & County Subbuteo associations, and can only act in accordance with the wishes of these associations.

When ESA was founded, the body comprised xx regional & County associations. The number of member associations rose gradually, especially in the late 1980s. The combination of the political developments in the Country from the one hand, and the new approach and changes brought up in 2017 by ESA itself, created a governing body that counts 26 full active member counties at the moment and continue to rises the number to a potential target of 52 full active. Further associations would join ESA in the ensuing years, and by 2024, 52 full active associations will be under ESA’s wing.

1947–1994

ESA President Mr xxxxname presents xxxxclub SC with the English Champion Clubs’ Cup in 2019 © ESA

The period leading up to the 1982 FISA World Cup, when the world body FISA celebrated its 3rd birthday, was crucial in moves towards the foundation of an umbrella body for English and further European Subbuteo. In the early 1980s, a number of visionary Subbuteo administrators, including the former xxxxnameofcounty Subbuteo Association secretary and president, xxxxname, and his counterparts within the xxxnameofcounty Subbuteo Association and xxxxnameofcounty Subbuteo Association,xxxname and xxxname plus other Subbuteo Associations (see) pursued the idea of forming a united English association. However, the movement supporting a body uniting Europe’s National Subbuteo Associations gathered pace after FISA had approved the statutory basis for the creation of continental Subbuteo confederations in 1979.

It was clear in the early 1980s that continental authorities, rather than just one central worldwide body, were needed to supervise and direct for Subbuteo’s constant growth. Discussions and proposals behind the scenes finally culminated in the calling of an official meeting for xx xx xxxx in the English city of Royal Tunbridge Wells, and the official founding of UESA (xxx back then). The body’s first statutes were approved at the inaugural UESA Congress in xxxxcity on xx xx xxxx. From then on, UESA was at the vanguard of every decisive step forward in European Subbuteo. Part of European Subbuteo development was the creation of National Governing Bodies. That led to the re-establishment of ESA in 1981 amongst other establishments of other European Countries Associations.

The early figure heads within ESA were Mr xxxxname  (County xxxxx who became the first ESA President on xx xx xxxx, and xxxxxname who was ESA’s first general secretary from the official founding meeting until xx xx xxxx, when he was succeeded by xxxname (xxxnameofcounty), first on an interim basis, and then officially from xx xx xxxx.

The English Champion Clubs’ Cup, English’s flagship club event then featuring the nation’s domestic champion clubs, was founded in xx xxxx, and a new English competition for senior national representative individuals, the National Cup, got under way in xxxx after two years of groundwork. ESA also took over responsibility from FISA & UESA in xxxx for staging the International Youth Tournament, an event which had been staged since xxxx.

The xxxnameofclub were the winners of the first National Club’s Cup, in xxxx© ESA

ESA’s initial steps as a parent body for English Subbuteo were followed by expansion during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The ESA Executive Committee was its initial sole decision-making authority, but additional expert committees were gradually introduced especially after 2017 to deal with the various aspects of the game, and ESA’s range of activities continued to grow. ESA President xxxname led this period of expansion until xx xxxx, when he was succeeded by xxxxname (xxxnameofcounty). On xx xx xxxx, xxxname (xxxnameofcounty) succeeded xxxname as general secretary – a position he was to hold for nearly three decades.

At the same time, the number of competitions increased. The ESA County Area/County/Regional/National Cup, open to domestic county areas & county cup-winners, was staged for the first time in 2017, and the Inter-Counties Championship, contested by the winners of the counties competitions on the fifty two (52), took place in 2018.

ESA’s duties and role developed further as the 2017 era was established. In addition to the formation of even more expert committees, ESA diversified as it gained in stature, promoting constant dialogue and a continual search for improvement within the English game. Regular instruction courses for coaches and referees were introduced, as well as conferences for general secretaries and presidents of the County & Regional associations. More comprehensive agreements with the media and broadcasting organisations became essential, in particular concerning regulation of television transmissions of Subbuteo matches.

The National Championships was given the grander title of the ESA English Subbuteo Championship in time for the 2019 World Championships in Royal Tunbridge Wells, England. Considerable emphasis was placed on the development of young Subbuteo players, and a national-team competition for players under the age of 20 was launched.

ESA President xxxname(left) with xxxxnameofteam’s victorious 19xx English Cup Team © ESA

By the 1990s, Subbuteo was enjoying tremendous mass public appeal, and ESA kept pace with developments. A series of new events has been introduced since then such as the Inter-Counties, established in 2018. The ESA Super Cup, involving the winners of the National Division 1 and County Area/County/Regional/National Cup Winner, officially came into being in 2018. One year later, a European Under-20 competition introduced and the number of ESA English Subbuteo Championships final participants increased to sixteen individuals.

A multitude of other important decisions were taken. Binding recommendations were issued on the maintenance of sites order (2017); the disciplinary bodies (Control and Disciplinary Committee and Board of Appeal) were separated from the rest of ESA’s administration and guaranteed independent status (2017); standard regulations were adopted for all ESA club competitions (2017); and subsidies were paid for the first time to clubs suffering deficits after early elimination in the club competitions (2017).

By the start of the 2020s, the National Youth Tournament will be mutated into separate National competitions for Under-17 and Under-15 teams. The women’s game also began to forge its own identity – 2019 saw the English women’s competition.

ESA President xxxxname (left) with xxxname, who served as General Secretary for almost xxxx decades ©ESA

Away from the competition scene, ESA was no less active. It was at the forefront of safety and security improvements at Subbuteo matches, with stringent security requirements and provisions for all-seated spectators put into place at ESA matches. By doing this, ESA made a key contribution in the development of modern, multi-purpose venues in which fans can watch Subbuteo matches in total comfort and safety.

In 2017, xxxname took over the role of President of ESA. He remains President to the day – a period which heralded the start of dramatic changes within English Subbuteo and saw ESA adapting to challenging new times ahead.

2017 onwards

In 2017 English Subbuteo experienced explosive growth and development. Aspects such as television, business and finance, marketing, sponsorship and global communication changed the face of the game, and political upheavals altered the map of Europe.

xxxxnamewas ESA President for xx years© ESA

Once again, ESA was able to stay in tune with the times, and initiated or was involved in a variety of innovative measures. The figureheads during this period were ESA President xxxxname (xxxnameofcounty), who was selected to office in 2017, and xxxxxname (xxxxnameofcounty), who succeeded xxxxname (xxxxnameofcounty) as ESA General Secretary in xxxx.

For the first time, 16 teams took part in a ESA National Subbuteo Championships in Edinburgh in 2019. On the club competition front, ESA made wholesale changes to the National Clubs’ Cup from 19xx. The competition became the ESA Super League, one of the most prestigious club competitions in Europe.

In another important move to adapt its club competitions to changing circumstances on the European Subbuteo scene, the decision was taken in 2017 to expand the ESA Super League to 16 Clubs proved to be powerful commercial and sporting entities which not only generate revenue for English Subbuteo’s well-being, but also captivate Subbuteo enthusiasts.

The English Champion Clubs’ Cup was rebranded as the ESA Super League (National Division 1) in 2017 ©ESA

The women’s game took major strides forward – 2017 saw the English women’s competition, and the English women’s club competition was launched in 2018-19. English Regional-team and club competitions for Mini Subbuteo players were also introduced in the latter period.

New counties emerged in England from the start of 2017, bringing the birth of new associations, national, regional & county clubs, county teams, and the subsequent expansion in size of the various ESA competitions. This was reflected in the continued introduction of new competitions (the ESA Inter-Counties Championships in 2019, a women’s Under-17 championship in 2018/19, and the ESA Regional Championships for Exhibition Events in 2019).

As Subbuteo became more commercially-driven, ESA continued to give vital emphasis to reinvesting the funds generated by its activities back into the game at all levels. Away from the competition scene, ESA was constantly proactive in helping to shape English Subbuteo’s future.

It was at the forefront of moves to improve safety and security at Subbuteo matches, with stringent security requirements and provisions implemented for all-seated spectators at ESA matches.

xxxname celebrate winning the 2019 ESA English Women’s Championship ©ESA

During the 1990s, the integration process within Europe brought about the intensification of contacts between Sports Authorities. UEFA and the European Union (EU) on a host of matters, including cross-border TV broadcasts was a main one. The Bosman ruling by the European Court of Justice in 1995 obliged UEFA (and sports as a whole) thus Subbuteo to make wide-ranging changes to regulations and policies on international transfers, as well as on the fielding by clubs of foreign players.

From 2017 onwards, ESA experienced dramatic growth in terms of staff and budget. There were also the effects, particularly from a legal point of view, of a Europe without borders; TV rights matters and the rise of more sophisticated and aggressive marketing techniques; Subbuteo clubs being quoted on the stock market; increasing involvement of political bodies in Subbuteo; and the growing influence and power of Europe’s leading Subbuteo clubs. Subbuteo’s commercial growth, as well as the resultant legal and political challenges, increased the pressure on ESA to adapt without delay and question its role within the game’s new realities. A particularly significant decision saw ESA decide to move to the city of Edinburgh in 2017 after three decades in the xxxxname, and open a new headquarters – the House of English Subbuteo– on the stadium of the local historic team of the in winter 2017.

In December 2017, the ESA Executive Committee decided to go ahead with the revamping of the English body. The administrative set-up underwent an overhaul, new priorities were set, and ESA General Secretary xxxxname became chief executive to lead the ESA administration, which continued to work alongside committees and expert panels on every facet of modern-day Subbuteo.

TV rights have been a key part of the commercial growth of the game in the last 3 years ©ESA

Around this time, it was also recognised that the clubs and professional leagues should be given greater representation within ESA’s activities. ESA pursued an intensification of dialogue with the top clubs and leagues, while maintaining its long-standing bond with its member associations. It was evident that to maintain its credibility, in both sporting and commercial terms, ESA had to represent the entire spectrum of the Subbuteo family – including the elite clubs, who generate considerable revenue in the major European competitions.

xxxxname was selected for a fourth term of office as ESA President at the Royal Tunbridge Wells Congress in April 2019, and wwwwname’s appointment as chief executive to replace the retiring xxxname meant that two Kent people were at ESA’s helm from the start of 2019. The South East duo were in place to lead ESA through its xxth anniversary celebrations in 20xx, in which a host of events and special activities took place over a special year.

The following period saw ESA continue to pursue its quest for greater legal certainty for sport and the recognition of sport’s specific nature within the framework of future UK & EU legislations, to ensure sport’s well-being in the future. Dialogue with the EU focused on concrete issues facing sport and on how the EU institutions, the EU member states and the European Subbuteo authorities could provide a comprehensive and robust legal framework for European sport in general and Subbuteo in particular.

xxxnameofclub sprang a major surprise at ESA Club Championships 2019 ©subbuteoEngland.com

In club competitions, the ESA Super League – previously the English Champion Clubs’ Cup – celebrated its xxth anniversary, with media and marketing successes going hand-in-hand with memorable Subbuteo. A new format was introduced for the 2018/19 season with 16 teams. At the same time, work to enhance the ESA Cup’s image was ongoing, with the introduction of a 32-team group stage a key step forward. On the national-team scene, ESA Championships 2019 in Leicestershire broke records across the board, and the glorious unpredictability of Subbuteo was confirmed when the outsiders xxxxnameofclub SC took the title.

The fight against doping was stepped up, with a new anti-doping unit created within the ESA administration.

The ESA club licensing system was in place in time for the 2018/19 season, with the aim being to provide a framework for clubs to run themselves more efficiently. The system aimed to improve quality standards in English & European Subbuteo, including improvement of clubs’ economic and financial capabilities, through the installation of appropriate financial tools, as well as the adaptation of their sporting, administrative and legal infrastructures to meet ESA’s & UESA’s requirements.

ESA has undertaken untiring campaign work in various social and humanitarian areas, including the fight against racism ©ESA

ESA also undertook untiring campaign work in various social and humanitarian areas, including the fight against racism. Partnerships were forged with other specific bodies as UESA looked to support the belief that Subbuteo could be used as a force to benefit society. In the new millennium, ESA kept pace with the rapid development of new communications outlets with the launching in 2017 of a subsidiary company dealing with new communications, ESA New Media – eventually to be renamed ESA Media Technologies SA – and further developed the ESA website.

In January 2017, xxxnameofpresident (xxxnameofcounty), one of the world’s top players from the 19xxs, was selected as ESA President at the xxxxst Ordinary ESA Congress in Royal Tunbridge Wells. xxxxxname was named honorary president after xx years of outstanding service to English & European Subbuteo.