Table Football tournaments range in size from local events on a single table to national and even international tournaments run on tens of tables. The larger the tournament the greater the organisational requirements, although in all cases the most important thing is to plan well in advance.
We detail below our seven step guide to organising a successful tournament.
Step 1 – Secure the Tournament Venue
Typical venues will include pubs, hotels and student unions. To sell the idea of a tournament to the landlord/manager, it’s worth pointing out how many people can be expected to turn up, all thirsty (and hungry) who will be prepared to spend a large amount of time in the middle of the day down at the pub! Most venues have been very pleased at the commercial success of events, and it is common for venues to host more than one event, such as Hawkwell House in Oxford and Rileys in Liverpool.
When thinking about space, remember that tables take up a lot of room, but that this can be minimised by placing multiple tables end-on. Look at how much space is needed either side of table as people lean back for shots etc. Large rectangular rooms are good (hotel function rooms are usually ideal); other shaped rooms tend to end up with lots of spaces just too small to put a table in.
The area for tables should be out of the way if possible, so that the table football players do not annoy the pub regulars and vice versa when the pub starts to get busy in the evenings. A side room or function room off the main bar area is ideal.
Step 2 – Organise Tables
Ensuring sufficient tables is an important part of organising a larger event. Most tournaments are run by members of the Britfoos community on tables owned by the BFA – for more details check out our forum or use our contact form. Alternatively, you can find out who the operators of the tables in your area are, and talk to them. Sending written request via e-mail etc is good, but you usually have to track down the person in charge and sell it them in person (or failing that over the phone).
Smaller, local tournaments can be run with just a couple of tables, but it is worth trying to get in extra tables if possible. As an incentive to the operator you can say:
- Advertising the event will encourage people to play more in advance of the event.
- Seeing the top UK players will give people greater motivation to play more and improve their game.
- Organising tournaments looks good for the operator. They are able to advertise on the back of the tournament publicity, and will be greatly thanked afterwards.
- The effort involved on their part can be minimal – dropping off a few tables the night before or on the morning of the tournament, and then picking them up shortly after the tournament.
Most tournaments involve charging players a registration fee (e.g. £5 per day for free table football including all tournament matches, and all warm-up/pick up games), rather than paying per game.
Following delivery, the tables will need to be set-up in position, their playing surfaces thoroughly cleaned and levelled, the rods lubricated, and any glass top removed if possible. Tables should be placed with plenty of space around them, both for players and spectators wanting to move between them, and also in positions with good overhead lighting.
Finally, numbering the tables is essential, so people know which table they are on. It is a nice idea to put any sponsors’ information on the table numbers as well to increase visibility.
Don’t trust anyone to have done what they said they would – check yourself to make sure.
Step 3 – Decide the Format of Events
There are many different types of events that can be run at a tournament, including but not limited to:
- Doubles – Open Doubles (all comers), Novice (restricted entry), Mixed (mixed sex teams), Draw Your Partner etc.
- Singles – Open Singles, Novice Singles, Forward Shootout, Goalie Wars etc.
Rules for all these types of events and more are contained on the BFA website.
Getting the mix correct is a balancing act between time allowable, number of tables, and number of competitors. The BFA can advise on suitable format and schedule.
A full day’s tournament will usually involve Open Doubles, Open Singles, Women’s Doubles and Novice Doubles for starters, with additional events such as Semi-pro Doubles, Novice Singles etc if the schedule allows.
Fun events such as DYP (Draw Your Partner), Goalie Wars and Forward Shootout can be organised for the night before a big event or after the event if the tables are still on site.
Local tournaments are more often run in the evenings in pubs on just a couple of tables, and just a single Open Doubles competition is usually sufficient.
The standard formats for events include:
- World Cup Group Stages
- Straight (Single) Elimination Knockout
- Double Elimination Knockout
- Swiss System (teams play opponents with the same record as they have)
Local events are usually run using World Cup style group stages followed by a straight knockout draw.
Ranking events usually involve a Double Elimination Knockout, although can also use a World Cup style group stage followed by a Single Elimination Knockout.
Games are usually played as first to 5 goals. In group stages just a single game is played against any one opponent, whilst in the knockout stages it is usually best of 3 games. Game format can be modified if running out of time (e.g. play one game first to 7 goals). For the big money tournaments format is often best of 5 games.
Match formats are often longer in the winners bracket of double-elimination tournaments than in the losers bracket (e.g. best of 5 games in the winners bracket, best of 3 games in the losers bracket).
Step 4 – Sponsorship, Trophies, Publicity
There are undoubtedly millions of potential sponsors, but here are some of the more obvious, table football related ones.
- The tournament venue – there are obvious benefits to them if the turnout is good.
- The brewery supplying the venue – they may well be prepared to sponsor a free barrel or two, which the landlord can then make up.
- Table Importers (relevant one to your table type!).
- Aim high! Shell sponsored a Cambridge Open, as an ideal way to appeal to prospective graduate employees. Jon May is an excellent source of advice and help in this area.
- The British Foosball Association – we are interested in promoting all UK tournaments and may be able to donate resources towards organisation, trophies, publicity, and/or transport.
It’s always nice to have trophies for the winners, particularly for the events for new players. Do shop around, as there is a wide variation in prices, and there are bargains to be had on the internet and with some suppliers the BFA has a close working relationship with.
Pre-tournament publicity is essential, and should be done as far in advance as possible. Things to remember are:
- Inform the BFA of your tournament. We will advertise it on our website, and are a valuable source of advice. If the BFA promotes a competition as a ranking event, the turnout can be greatly increased.
- Put posters up around all local tables and venues (preferably stick them with blu-tac/sellotape on to the table itself), and stick them up yourself! Stuff sent out to Landlords etc will likely go in the bin!
- Try and get a local paper/TV or radio to cover the event, sponsors love it. Mase (Ben Mason) has had good success in organising press releases and publicity for tournaments, and he is a valuable source of advice.
- The Britfoos forum is a great place to drum up interest before the tournament, and is usually a source of great anticipation and excitement as the tournament approaches.
Step 5 – Pre-registration and Package Deals
Discounted registrations for players who register in advance have been given in some national ranking tournaments for several reasons:
- It helps to gauge how many people will turn up, and get in additional tables if necessary.
- It can be helpful to close entry to some events early for organisational reasons, with a clear conscience that if too many people turn up it is their own fault for not pre-registering.
- It helps ensure speedy registration on the day. Entering new entries into computer software takes time, and can cause tournaments to start late.
Non-discounted pre-registration has been applied well to local tournaments, where the organiser just wants to make sure his regulars know about the event and are going to turn up. In such circumstances people who pre-register are usually given the option of paying in advance or on the day.
Offering discounted package deals for players wanting to enter multiple events is a good way of getting people to play in as many events as possible. This is an especially good for getting novices to play in open events, giving them valuable experience, and usually pushes up the overall prize fund.
Step 6 – Organisation on the Day
Try and set aside a reasonable size table (a covered pool table is ideal) for whoever is running the tournament to spread out their stuff. This needs to be close to a number of electric sockets, or have the option to use extension cables. If using the SPORT software that the BFA is licensed to use, then try and arrange space for a display monitor away from the main desk, where players can see how the tournament is developing. The BFA can advise on what is required here. A microphone is essential for the larger tournaments.
Think about asking the BFA to help run the tournament on the day, but please provide one or two people to help/learn how to run the event. The BFA has software that allows draws to be seeded, and automatically determines matches for the knockout stages etc, making this all very easy to work out. The BFA has a license for the SPORT software that automates a lot of the tournament tasks, and makes manual errors less likely.
Decide on cost/prizes. Cheap entry for novice (i.e. most if not all local) players is important, but semi-pro and pro ranked players can be charged a bit more as they are more likely to do well (double entry fee for semi-pro and triple for pro seems appropriate). It generally won’t put the semi-pros and pros off coming, as they expect to win some prize money (cost of getting to and from tournaments usually greatly outweighs entry fees, and players who actually make money out of table football are very few and far between). Typical entry fees at the moment seem to start around £5 for novices, going up for the higher ranked players. However, it definitely is worth doing package deals to get players to enter more events.
Decide on how many events, what type of events, and what format the events are going to be played in. If there is enough time a Draw-Your-Partner, Forward Shootout or Goalie War competition can always be organised.
If organising a larger tournament, new players will be encouraged by running an amateur or novice event that excludes the semi-pro and pro players, giving less experienced players a chance to compete against others of similar standard. Women’s events are often held later in the day after the main competitions are down to one or two tables. However this can lead to clashes where the top women players are still involved in the Open events.
Step 7 – After the Competition
Don’t forget to publish the results – players like to see their name ‘in lights’, and how they have done overall, even if knocked out in the middle of the chart. The Britfoos forum is the usual place for players to discuss the tournament, and where praise is given to the good points and constructive suggestions for improvements are made.
In order to rank the tournament, the BFA will need to see the whole chart showing who beat whom, and where everyone finished. Ranking points are awarded according to the final placing in a competition, and also ‘bonus points’ for beating players of higher. Without the full chart and results, it is impossible to calculate the rankings properly.