Although patents for similar games may exist from as far back as the 1890s, the game of Table Football as we know it today was first invented by Harold Searles Thornton in 1921 and patented in 1923 (UK patent no. 205,991 application dated 14 October 1921 and accepted 1 November 1923).
The concept was conceived after Harold had been to a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. football match (he was an avid supporter). He wanted to provide a game that replicated football that could be played at home. The inspiration came from a box of matches: by laying the matches across the box he had formed the basis of his game.
His uncle (United States resident Louis P. Thornton, who once in Portland, Oregon) visited Harold and took the inspiration back to the USA where it was patented in 1927 (United States Patent Office No. 1,615,491). The patent eventually expired.
In 2002, the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) was established in France with the mission of promoting the sport of Table Soccer as an organizing sports body, regulating international competitions, and establishing the game with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and General Association of International Sport Federation (GAISF).