The SUBBUTEO technical page
The following few paragraphs explain the basic rules for attacking and defending. It is just to give you an idea about how the game is played in relatively few words.
When you have possession of the ball, that is you are the attacker (as opposed to the defender), what is expected of you is to flick a player toward the ball and make contact (with it) knowing that:
When the ball is in the shooting zone (the quadrant that spans a quarter of the field from the defender's goal line), you are allowed to shoot at goal instead of advancing the ball. An attacking player is not allowed to touch the ball more than three times in succession knowing that if the ball hits another attacking player, the "flick counter" is reset to zero.
As the defender, you are allowed to "block" after each attacking flick but the attacker is in no way obligated to wait for you. What is expected of you as the defender is to flick a player anywhere you want to make the attacker's job harder and/or to force a mistake knowing that:
Ok, you're still here and you want to know more about the rules. Have a look at the Woodentop FISTF quick rules (pdf). It's not the full-fledged FISTF rule book but that should get you going without the headaches involved with too much reading.
Ok, you're still here and you want to know all the rules. Well, don't worry, the latest FISTF rules June 2005 edition (pdf) have been released and are available right here for your enjoyment.
What follows is just me babbling about some aspects of the rules that are not super well explained in the giant book of rules.
Taken from the official FISTF rules:
Rule 13. Offside
13.1.1. An attacking playing figure is not allowed to be positioned within the defender's shooting-area and nearer to the defender's goalline than the ball unless two defending playing figures, or one defending playing figure and the defender's goalkeeper, are nearer to the defender s goalline than the attacking playing figure. Thereby, a playing figure is declared offside providing that the slightest part of the ball has passed the penultimate defending playing figure's base and the ball is positioned completely in the defender's shooting-area.
13.1.2. An attacking playing figure is not allowed to be positioned within the defender's shooting-area and nearer to the defender's goalline than the ball unless two defending playing figures, or one defending playing figure and the defender's goalkeeper, are nearer to the defender s goalline than the attacking playing figure. Thereby, a playing figure is declared offside providing that the ball is already past the penultimate defending playing figure s base and positioned completely in the defender s shooting area, and is played toward the defender's goalline by another attacking playing figure.
13.1.3. The decisive moment for an offside decision is when the ball is touched. Therefore, the defender cannot play an attacking playing figure offside after the ball has been touched. When the offence occurs: Referee s expression: Offside - free-flick Punishment: Free-flick from where the playing figure was deemed offside. Remark: a. If there are two or more playing figures deemed offside simultaneously the free-flick shall be taken from the playing figure's position nearer to the goalline deeper offside). b. Playing figures or goalkeepers positioned behind the goalline are considered to be on the goalline regarding an offside decision.
13.1.4. A playing figure in offside position is not declared offside nor punished for it providing: a. The ball is played directly from a corner-flick, flick-in, goal-flick or a penalty-flick. b. The ball is played by the opponent. Note, that in the above mentioned occasions the offside rule is again fully to apply with the next attacking flick. See 13.2. for passive offside.
13.1.5. An offside positioned playing figure can be used to play the ball.
13.2. Passive offside If, by an attacking move, the played playing figure moves from non-offside position into offside position, there is no offside for this playing figure as long as the ball is moving: passive offside. However, this playing figure is not allowed to play the ball again until the ball has stopped. When the offence occurs: Referee s expression: Offside - free-flick Punishment: Free-flick from where the playing figure in passive offside was flicked before the ball has stopped.
Well, that is certainly a lot to digest. Let us try to rephrase some of the key aspects of that rule. A player is in an offside position if he is closer to the goal line than the ball and the last defender (beside the goalie). In other words, he is in front of both the ball and the last defender. Being in an offside position is all fine and dandy because you are allowed to play the ball and you can give yourself an onside flick (up to 3 per possession). You have to start to really worry about it when you are attacking and the ball is about to get into shooting territory. Obviously, you can worry about it much sooner, it is really up to you.
A player can be called offside only if:
Rule 13.1.3 prevents the defender from putting an attacking figure offside after the ball has been flicked (forward) by the attacker. It is really like real soccer when offsides are always called when the ball leaves the attacking player's foot. If you as the defender flick a player (forward) to put an attacking figure offside after the ball has been played by the attacker, you are way too late and you won't get the offside call. This rule also covers ruling difficulties when figurines move as the ball is played (the figurines moving because of the ball bumping into them). Always consider the positioning of the figures when the ball is last touched by an attacking figure.
The passive offside rule has been put in place to rule out an offside call to a player that passes the ball to another player which then flicks the moving ball. In other words, if a figurine flicks the ball and then another figurine flicks it while rolling, the passer can never be called offside on the rolling ball flick play. Please remember that the passive offside rule requires the passer to be onside before the pass is made. You could have a situation where one player flicks the ball and puts himself into an offside position, another player flicks the moving ball and puts himself into an offside position and then another player (or even the player that made the initial pass) flicks the still moving ball. There cannot be any offside called on any of the players because the ball was always moving when struck. In other words, as long as the ball is moving, you cannot call offside any player that flicked it! This is important because the better players always keep the ball moving and calling offsides can be come tricky if you don't keep track of who flicked the ball since the ball started rolling.
Rule 13.1.4 is important to understand. It means that a player in an offside position cannot be called offside if the ball is played directly from a corner kick, flick-in or goal kick. This rule does not care whether the ball is moving or not. This rule has nothing to do with passive offside. So, you take a flick-in, the ball stops, and nobody can be called offsides as the result of taking the flick-in. Same thing for corners and goal-kicks. The wording "ball is played directly from" that's in the rule has ZERO to do with whether the ball is moving or not and has nothing to do with a second flick by another player while ball is rolling! Note that it is exactly the same thing as in real soccer.
|Top RED player is in an offside position. An offside is called as soon as the ball played by the bottom RED player passes the shooting line and then the last defender (black line).|
|Bottom RED player is in an offside position before the ball is played by the top RED player. Because the ball is already past the shooting line and the last defender (black line), an offside is called as soon as the ball moves forward.|
|Bottom RED player plays the ball and ends up in an offside position. The top RED player is about to strike the ball as it rolls past him. Can't wait to see what is gonna happen !|
|Top RED player strikes the ball as it is moving. The bottom RED player is offside but there is no call. This is known as the passive offside rule. The key element is that the ball was moving when it was struck.|
|Bottom RED player is in an offside position but is allowed to play the ball. Even if the top RED player strikes the ball as it is moving, the bottom RED player must be called offside. Because the bottom RED player was in an offside position to begin with (before he made the decisive pass), the passive offside rule does not apply here. The passive offside rule only applies when the passer goes from an onside position to an offside position.|
|We have a corner kick. RED player 1 takes the corner kick and RED player 2 shoots the ball while moving. RED player 1 should not be called offside due to the passive offside rule but RED player 3 should be called offside! The passive offside rule prevents the corner kicker from being called offside if the ball is rolling when struck by RED player 2. However the usual offside rule applies for RED player 3.|
|We have a corner kick. RED player 2 is in an offside position but will not be called offside when RED player 1 passes him the ball (whether or not RED player 2 flicks the ball while it is moving). Why? Because the ball is played directly from a corner kick. That is what rule 13.1.4.a is all about. You won't see that situation very often but it could happen and rule 13.1.4.a covers it.|
|Another rule 13.1.4.a "ball played directly from" example. We have a throw-in. RED player 2 and 3 are in offside positions but will not be called when the ball passes the last defender. Why? Because the ball is played directly from a throw-in. This is exactly like in real soccer (for once), you cannot be called offside on a ball coming directly from a throw-in.|
|Attacking RED player 2 is off the field beyond the goal line. Is he in an offside position? Remember that a player that is off the field past the goal line should be considered on the goal line for offside calls. So, yes, he is in an offside position because he is nearer to the goal line than the last 2 defenders (including the goalkeeper). As soon as the ball passes the last defender, RED player 2 should be called offside. Let us make things more interesting: consider a defending figure off the field beyond the goal line! If the goalie is in front of the goal line, the attacking player is still offside but if the goalie is on the goal line, the attacking player is not offside. Let us make things even more interesting: consider 2 defending figures off the field beyond the goal line! Easy, the attacking player is not offside.|
|RED player 1 flicks the ball which hits BLU player 1 and then hits RED player 2. What's the call on RED player 2? One may say that even though RED player 2 is in an offside position when the ball is played by RED player 1, as soon as the ball touches BLU player 1, the possession changes and there cannot be any offside call on RED player 2 (ball being played by the defender). Well, that would be a wrong interpretation of rule 13.1.4.b. because the ball has to be played by the defender in order to apply, in other words, the ball touching the defending figure as it passes along does not count. So you have to call offside on RED player 2.|
Taken from the official FISTF rules:
6.2.1. After each touch of the ball by a flicked attacking playing figure or the attacking goalkeeper, the defender may flick a playing figure for defensive purpose - block-flick. The defender may not take his block-flick before the attacker has touched the ball. When the offence occurs: Referee s expression: Illegal flicking - free-flick Punishment: See rule 1.2.
6.2.2. A block-flick taken by the defender after the attacker has missed the ball is considered an attacking flick.
This clearly states that the defender should get a free-kick against if the defender blocks before the attacker touches the ball. You must wait until the attacker touches the ball to block-flick. By the way, you really should because what if the attacker misses the ball? You would regain possession without breaking a sweat!
Taken from the official FISTF rules:
6.2.4. A block-flicked playing figure must not touch the ball nor any playing figure of either player. When the offence occurs: Referee's expression: Function of the case Punishment:
a. The ball is stationary:
(1) The defending playing figure touches a stationary playing figure: back (i).
(2) The defending playing figure touches the stationary ball: back (i).
(3) The defending playing figure touches a moving attacking playing figure: obstruction - back (iv).
b. The ball is moving:
(1) The defending playing figure touches a stationary playing figure: case(ii).
(2) The defending playing figure touches the moving ball: free flick (iii).
(3) The defending playing figure touches a moving playing figure: free flick (iii).
(i) If back is claimed the referee shall replace all affected playing figures and/or the ball to their previous positions. Then, the referee shall give the signal for the game to continue by stating: play!
(ii) For violating a stationary playing figure, a free-flick (iii) shall only be awarded if the violated playing figure has been prevented being used to play a moving ball. Otherwise a back shall be applied as mentioned under (i).
(iii) Free-flick from where the offending playing figure has committed the offence. Free-flick from the penalty-spot if the offence has been committed in the penalty-area. See rule 11.
(iv) If back is requested by the attacker, the referee shall replace the offending playing figure and the eventually affected ball to the previous position. The referee shall position the offended attacking playing figure where the offence took place and give the signal for the game to continue by stating: play ! Thereby, the attacker gains some distance and keeps the number of flicking opportunities with the regarded playing figure. See 5.2.
Let us do a little bit of rephrasing so that it all sinks in. I assume you have come to the conclusion that if you hit something (the ball or a player, not a goal post), you are gonna pay. The foul depends on whether the ball is rolling or not and whether what you hit is moving or not. Let us put all possible scenarii in a table for better clarity.
|What's the ball doing ?||What you hit ?||What you deserve ?|
|stationary||a stationary player||back|
|stationary||a moving (attacking) player||back (replace fouled attacking player where it was fouled)|
|moving||a stationary player||back unless fouled attacking player about to hit the ball (free-kick then)|
|moving||a moving (attacking) player||free-kick|
From this table, you can really appreciate the fact that when you hit something (ball or player) that's moving while the ball is rolling, you have earned yourself a free-kick. The only time you do not get called for a free-kick with the ball rolling is when you hit a stationary player that is not about to play the ball on the roll. When a back is awarded, the offended player does not have to accept and is free to let the game go on.
Taken from the official FISTF rules:
6.2.3. The attacker does not have to wait for the defender to take a block-flick. However, in the following situations, the referee shall allow the defender time to make a block-flick.
184.108.40.206. Rule 2.1: Placing and raising of playing figures: If the ball is stationary, the referee interrupts the game and places playing figures according to the rules and allows the defender time to make an untaken block-flick.
220.127.116.11. Rule 5.4: Limited flick: If the attacker, when attempting to flick a playing figure at the ball, needs to take up a position behind the playing board that requires the defender to move out of convenient reach of the goalkeeper, the referee shall allow the attacker to make his/her flick, then the defender time to take his/her block-flick.
18.104.22.168. Rule 8.3: Substitution of the goalkeeper: A broken or damaged goalkeeper may be substituted at any time of the match providing the ball is stationary. After the player has announced his intention to substitute the broken goalkeeper, the referee interrupts the game and shall control if the replacement goalkeeper fulfills the defined regulations, then allows the defender to make an untaken block-flick.
22.214.171.124. Rule 9.2.2: Removing of the spare-goalkeeper: After the spare-goalkeeper has been removed from the playing area, the referee interrupts the game and allows the defender to take an untaken block- flick.
126.96.36.199. Rule 13.4: Procedure for taking a tick-flick: When the referee has given the attacker permission to take a tick-flick, he shall allow the defender to make an untaken block-flick before the tick-flick is taken. After the attacker has taken the tick-flick, the referee shall allow the defender to make a block-flick.
188.8.131.52. Rule 14.2: Procedure for taking a flick-in: Before the attacker may proceed with attacking after a flick-in, the referee shall allow the defender to make a block-flick.
So, an untaken block-flick is due in the following situations:
Obviously, if the block flick has already been performed by the defender (which is allowed as soon as the attacking figure hits the ball), the block-flick that is due is not due anymore. If it hasn't been performed already, then it is due. Confusing, eh.
This is a repository of not-so-obvious things that referees do not always know about. It's kinda interesting to see how referees call games. Whatever does not seem right is gonna be put right here. ehehe. Hopefully, it won't grow too much.
The biggest problems people (that are relatively new to the game) have with refereeing are proper calls for fouling (and offside but it is not as bad). So, it is not a dumb idea to have a look at what's written above before going to a tournament if you are unsure of some of the rules. Note that even if you know the rules real well, it is not always easy to make the proper call concerning fouling because it can happen fast and you may get confused by pestifering players.
About handballs: according to the rules, a free-flick should be awarded (penalty if in the area). It is a rule difficult to referee because a free-flick should be awarded to the defender if the attacker flicks the ball with the intention of hitting the defender's hand. So some referees call handballs as backs because they are often involontary. Nothing wrong with that really.
Situations that require the referee's intervention like raising a fallen playing figure, putting back a figure into the field of play, removing a figure from the goal area (by the way, always 1 mm off the goal area perpendicular to the goal line) should be considered only when the ball is stationary. If the ball is moving and you are refereeing, please do not ever ever stop the game!