Structure of the UK Game
The BFA is the national association of table football in the UK. Internationally, the ITSF (International Table Soccer Federation) oversees the development of table football in all of its member federations, of which the BFA is one of them. Together, these federations form the basis of the national and international scenes.
The International Scene
The ITSF was formed in August 2002, with the UK among its founding members. The goal of the ITSF, as listed on their website www.table-soccer.org is ‘to develop and promote different aspects of table soccer without discrimination of any kind, in close cooperation with its member federations and partners.’ The ITSF works to unite every national federation, agreeing standards for the international game. It has made considerable progress, not least in establishing a biennial World Cup, which is regularly featured on TV (Eurosport 2).
Along with the World Cup (a team event), the ITSF organises annual World Championships for singles and doubles teams in a variety of categories. Member federations are encouraged to host their own international (ITSF-sanctioned) tournaments on the 5 official ITSF tables, and there are 4 levels of ITSF tournament, which are, in order of prestige:
Level 4: World Championship Series
Level 3: International
Level 2: Master Series
Level 1: Pro Tour
Players who attend ITSF tournaments earn ITSF ranking points, and those in the Top 16 at the end of the season automatically qualify for the World Championships (joining those who qualify by other routes). Anyone can enter Level 4 tournaments and below.
The National Scene
The BFA was formed in 1998. The structure of the national scene is slightly complex:
Major tournaments are organised every few months. These are usually organised by individual promoters, however some may be organised directly by the BFA. Most tournaments will have both Singles and Doubles competitions in Open (anyone can enter), Divisional (entry limited by player rank/ability) and Category (Womens, Senior, Junior or Wheelchair) classifications.
The main event of the year in the UK is the UK Championships. This is held at the end of the season, with the winners qualifying for the ITSF World Championships. Players can choose their preferred table (from those available) to play on in this competition.
The BFA National League has been running for several years. This is an exciting team event open to everyone; all you need to do is be part of a club or form your own, and play matches against other clubs – home, away or at tournaments during the season. Take a look at the BFA League section of the website for more details on forming a club and how to enter.
In many parts of the country there are thriving regional championships, based on small local tournaments held throughout the year with many events aimed at beginner and amateur players only. In London and the North West these have been established for several years, but elsewhere virtually any event, one-off or regular (monthly) can count towards these championships – which also count towards your BFA ranking.
Many different types of table football tables can be found in the UK, however you will usually see mainly Garlando and (in London) Bonzini tournaments being organised as these are the most popular and there are enough tables to run events. Garlandos are more popular among students, and Tornado/Fireball tend to be more popular among the rest of the UK scene, however Bonzini is popular in London.
On a local level, there are plenty of vibrant scenes in the UK where players come to play once or twice a week in a friendly format. These are often more social occasions than anything serious, and new players are always met with a friendly welcome wherever they venture. There is a wide demographic of players in the UK, ranging from schoolchildren to people of retirement age, students to professionals, men and women, all shapes and sizes…table football really can be played by anybody.