48-Year Football Table Ban Lifted in Turkey

Posted by Abi 14 MARCH 2016

A week after England’s first pre-Euro 2016 friendly match was announced against Turkey for the 22nd May (to be followed by matches with Australia and Portugal within the sub-sequential month) more football news surfaced from Turkey in time for the Euros build-up, but this time in the form of table football. 

Unbeknown to most of us, including Turkish residents, for the last 48-years table football has been banned across Turkey after being named on a list of ‘gambling tools’ that were not legally permitted to be sold, manufactured or imported into the country. Although this law seems never to have been enforced, this weekend that ban has been lifted as courts ruled that the game didn’t have a detrimental effect on work or family life, and is based on physical skill as opposed to luck.

RS Barcelona RS#3 Wood Football Table - Outdoors

Turkey has always followed strict laws on gambling and when gambling machines, such as slot machines and roulette wheels, began to be widely mass-manufactured and easily available, the import of these machines was strictly opposed by the government and swiftly banned.

The odd thing about the news of the foosball ban being lifted, is that football and table football has been very popular in Turkey for decades and no one was aware that they were breaking the law, including policemen it seems! According to this Turkish law, anyone caught playing table football was liable to face a prison sentence of up to 5 years. So what lead to this law being made in the first place and why was it never enforced?

On Saturday 12th of March, the BBC reported that it was a bizarre law that had been incorrectly phrased due to the Turkish word for football tables also being the same as the word used to describe slot machines, which were banned under the gambling tools list. So as a result, when one was banned, it meant that the other one was automatically banned according to legal texts. 

The Turkish Constitutional Court has now ruled that the ban on this game, known as ‘langirt’, has been lifted and has advised that games and tools such as these used for entertainment by adults and young people is based on physical skill and has been shown to improve mental activity.

The focus on the foosball ban being lifted has also raised questions about the wider ban Turkish law dictates on pinball machines and gambling tools such as roulette. These laws are currently strictly regulated, although the Constitutional Court has now stated that gambling laws should be re-regulated to view these activities as a personal mistake as opposed to a crime.

RS Barcelona RS#3 Football Table - Pitch

Regardless of whether anyone was aware of the foosball ban or not, it is good to know that Turkey can take part in official events, including holding an ITSF (International Table Football Federation) event, the Antalya Open 2016 in May, with piece of mind that they won’t be liable to face a jail sentence. Maybe it will even drive more support for the national team, who currently stand at number 42 out of 48 competing nations, and help them to work their way up the rankings this year. 

Written By: Abi Ponton

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