Football Manager planning to include women’s leagues in ‘watershed moment’ for sport

Stars such as Chelsea's Sam Kerr (left) and Fran Kirby are set to be included in the game

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Management simulation game Football Manager is to incorporate women’s football for the first time, in what Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has described as a “watershed moment” for the sport and the football gaming industry.

Football Manager say it will cost them millions of pounds and will take years to build a “comprehensive global database”, but Sports Interactive’s studio director Miles Jacobson told Telegraph Sport they “don’t care” about the initial costs in the short-term because “it is the right thing to do”.

Jacobson said: “It’s something we should have done a few years ago. We’ve been wanting to do this for a little while and we’ve been sitting there and waiting until it was financially viable, and we’ve realised it’s not going to be financially viable until someone like us gets off our bottoms and actually does this.

“We’ve spent the past 18 months working on this and having to be secretive about it. We want to stop talking about it as men’s and women’s football, and just start talking about it as football, because that’s what it is.”

Football Manager has sold more than 20m copies over the past decade and is played by more than two million players worldwide every year, in more than 190 countries. Creators are not yet specifying precisely which year’s version will be the first to include both genders of the sport, as Jacobson states they want to “do it properly” rather than releasing a half-hearted addition to their product later in 2021.

However, eventually women’s football competitions, teams, players and staff will be available within the same game as men’s football, rather than creating two separate games, and gamers will be able to switch between men’s and women’s clubs in their computerised managerial careers.

“We want to stop talking about it as men’s and women’s football, and just start talking about it as football, because that’s what it is,” Jacobson continued.

“Initially, the unfortunate reality is, given the way society is, we’re fully expecting some people to turn around and say ‘well, I’m not playing it anymore’ and those people can all go and do one, frankly, because they don’t deserve it.

“Over the long-term, we do believe more people will come to the game because of it, and hopefully other football games as well can come on similar journeys. Short-term, we’re going to lose considerable amounts of money on it, but we don’t care.”

Emma Hayes said she was delighted by the news

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Hayes, who has been offering advice and support to Sports Interactive’s team, is thrilled the game wants to treat men’s and women’s players equally, saying: “It’s a watershed moment. It’s a landmark because, to create a situation where there’s an equality of access to managers, to players, in a gaming platform, just further normalises the conversations in and around football.

“Not ‘men’, not ‘women’, just ‘football’. I’m thankful Football Manager have taken this historic step because I’m sure it will lead perhaps to others considering what they need to do.”

The game’s creators will also face some complex challenges within their match engine, taking into account women’s players’ natural, biological differences including factors such as height, body shape and even menstrual cycles. 

The current lack of media coverage of the lower leagues also presents difficulties, meaning it’s not yet clear how divisions of the English pyramid will be incorporated initially, but Jacobson expects to see around “15-20” women’s leagues from around the world added to the game first, with more to follow.

Looking at the bigger picture, Hayes knows the power a message of equality can have for youngsters, adding: “Look at the ground the women’s game has made up in the last five years – as a result of this, where will we be in another five years time? This is when you start changing behaviour, and this is how things start to shift.”

  • Football Manager is available on PC/Mac, iOS and Android, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.

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