Friday, 22 February 2013

Interview: Justin Finch, president of the ESA


A nice interview with Justin Finch, recent semi-finalist of the FISTF Grand Prix of France (veterans section) and president of the English Subbuteo Association (www.subbuteoassociation.co.uk)

Q: Subbuteo is doing well in England for the moment. What is the influence of the subbuteo relaunch on the ESA?
A: One of the reasons why I became Chairman last year was because I could see a window of opportunity created by the relaunch of Subbuteo. Such opportunities have not been around for some time and we are trying to embrace the product relaunch. In addition the old website was becoming very tired and needed to be completely redesigned. With my expertise in web development I have created a new platform so that our members can now have a website to be proud of... although I would like to add it's not been easy and we still have many more planned improvements.


Justin Finch (in the middle) refereeing a game between Thierry Vivron (France) and Alfred Fenech (Malta) in Issy

Q: Since January, some WASPA tournaments are organized in England by the Essex Subbuteo League, Harrow Weald SC and Yorkshire Phoenix (and maybe more to come), do you think it's a positive move for the game and for the ESA?
A: Yes in England my view is that we need to promote all events and help support the lesser skilled players. WASPA focusses on the social element and lesser skilled players of the game as opposed to the fierce competitive nature of FISTF and we want to be part of all table football communities.

Q: Do you think FISTF and WASPA can help each other? How do you think both bodies can collaborate?
A: Yes, but I think the issue is that many of the lesser players have a problem with FISTF, so we need to make radical changes.
For far too long FISTF events have been about supporting the top players and this is wrong. If a player travels to Spain from another country and pay for a flight, hotel and entrance fee, I think these people need to get more value than 2 or 3 games in an individual event. FISTF needs to change this policy and start to look after the grass roots and not just the top players.
Another point here is that organisers sometimes forget that it is the lesser skilled players who contribute more revenue to our events and associations. Many people frown about the thought of using a Swiss System, but our English National Finals are going to be based on a 5 round swiss. Why? Because 75 English players have paid to enter and the majority of these have a slim chance of winning, but they have paid their money and we want to reward them with 5 guaranteed games.

Q: What about the youth? Do you think England might have a world champion in the next five years?
A: Attracting young players is a big problem with our game today. The emergence of online console games has changed the direction of todays children and this is a very difficult problem to overcome. However in England we are starting to look at holding tournaments which provide a level playing field for all new players. We want to bring back the excitement that I had in 1986 when I won the English National Junior Finals at Wembley and a FREE trip to Greece to play in the World Cup. Kids today would love this opportunity.
Obviously to achieve these goals we need financial support but this can be achieved and this is what we are aiming for. As for England having a World Champion. Coen Townsend is currently the Number 1 player in the FISTF U12 rankings, so yes we believe we can achieve this. but we are not taking anything for granted and we must work harder and smarter with the Subbuteo brand to attract more children to the game.

Q: Finally, as a player, do you think the general level of the players in the international tournaments is still improving?
A: I think this depends on the event. However the recent tournament in Paris was possibly the hardest days play I have ever faced and although I got to the semi-finals I had to role back the years to get there. Generally though I think the real answer is that the standard of equipment has helped improve the majority of players. Some of the flicking techniques are questionable though. Too many players seem to push and drag rather than flick these days and this is something I am struggling to deal with as an old school player

Thanks for your answers!