Football Manager: It is not just a game, it is a phenomenon

The potentially relationship-ending Football Manager 2011

I must have frittered away literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hours on Football Manager and its predecessor Championship Manager over the years.

There is something addictive yet endearing about leading a side to glory, grabbing a bargain or fining a player who has been out on the lash and subsequently missed training.

It is something that has struck a chord over the years with football fans across the world, from the everyday man to the likes of comedian Jason Manford and singers Paolo Nutini and Robbie Williams.

“I’ve got addicted to Football Manager again,” said the latter in a blog last year. “People had warned my fiance Ayda what would happen, but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what was to come…”

The Take That star admitted he spent so much time on the game that he even decided to snap the disc because “it all got too much”.

However, just two days later he reordered it on Amazon. “It should come in the post tomorrow morning,” he added. “Ayda will be thrilled.”

Williams’ relationship is not the only one to be put under strain by Football Manager, with more than 35 divorces in recent years citing the game as a reason for the break up.

Over one million copies of the game are sold each and every time a new edition is released, with the average player clocking up 240 hours of gameplay over the course of a year.

Football Manager is not just a game, it is a phenomenon.

It is often hard to understand for outsiders what can be so addictive and exciting about a game that, at its core, is a massive database crammed with information on football players and staff from across the globe.

However, the beauty is that is allows regular folk like me to step into a job we all think we can do better.

Questions like ‘why did he sign him?’ and ‘why is he playing that formation?’ are regularly heard in watering holes across the land, but Football Manager allows users to control clubs and, ultimately, their destiny.

The game has transformed the football gaming world and has even had an impact on football culture as a whole.

“There are managers that openly admit they’ve used our database,” Miles Jacobson, the man behind Football Manager, told me.

“Jose Mourinho’s chief scout when he was at Chelsea was a big fan, we’ve got a deal with Everton whereby they use our database as part of their scouting network and we’re talking to other clubs about that now as well.

“Inside football it does get used and we’ve got international managers who play the game as well.

“There was a story from a few years ago when Peter Taylor took over as England manager for one game, a friendly against Italy.

“The Italian manager was there on the coach saying he hadn’t heard of certain players and Demetrio Albertini, who was an Italian star midfielder at the time, got his laptop out and sat there showing the manager who the players were off the back of the games.

“We’ve become more a part of football culture rather than video game culture, which was something we always strived for.

“We want to be seen as a football product as well as a computer game and I think we’re getting there.”

Jacobson’s work has also become a mainstay in popular culture, with Sky 1 football soap opera drama Dream Team using the game as part of a plotline and the aforementioned Manford using Football Manager-related comedy in his stand-up shows.

From humble beginnings, the game now has 70 full-time staff, over 1,000 scouts and a game database that includes more than 480,000 different players.

Obviously, though, with such a large operation there have been a few oversights in players attributes, with the likes of Mika Aaritalo, Cherno Samba and, most famously, Tonton Zola Moukoko becoming legends on screen rather than the pitch.

At the other end of the scale, there have been players unhappy with the skill level attributed to them.

“I was at a training session a few months ago and one of the players stood up in the team meeting after training and started having a go at me about his stats in front of all the other players,” said the Sports Interactive studio director.

“I just turned around and said ‘well, you were crap for the first half of the season and that’s why your stats are like they are, but you’re doing better now so keep that up and we’ll up you next year’.

“But we’ve always had players that come in and look at their stats.

“We had one guy who had been a trainee at Manchester United, who is playing in the Championship now, and he came in and was comparing his stats to his room-mate at the time when they were youth players there.

“At least he was honest, saying ‘I’m faster than him but, to be fair, he is better than dribbling so you should switch those two round’, which we did.”

The team at Sports Interactive are already working on the 2012 edition and are currently sifting through the 1,000-plus potential new feature ideas previously approved for the game.

With post-production finished and the new game on the horizon, the Football Manager brand looks set to get bigger and better next year.

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2 thoughts on “Football Manager: It is not just a game, it is a phenomenon

  1. Can’t wait to get this! I can feel a pretend stroke coming so I can stay home from Uni and mess around playing this.

  2. Hello my friend! I wish to say that this article is amazing, nice written and include almost all vital infos. I’d like to see more posts like this .

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