A reader speculates on whether this year’s Football Manager will pretend the coronavirus never happened or try to simulate its effects on the sport.
I’ve always promised myself that if my team were to reach the hallowed grounds of the English Premier League I would purchase the latest iteration of Football Manager on its release, a reward to myself for all their hard work. With this season drawing to a close, and promotion a possibility, I started casting my eye on the next entry in this series, curious to see which approach the developers would take. As noted in the recent review of F1 2020, would it adopt an alternate reality approach, where everything proceeds in the best possible way, or will it reflect the very real changes as a result of the pandemic?
Often, making changes of this magnitude to a game, this close to release, would be unfathomable but in a practical sense perhaps more achievable in a title such as this, that allows some customisation actions by default and is largely designed around statistics. Older iterations already allow playable scenarios to be downloaded and completed: taking charge of a team in the relegation zone, facing financial ruin, or having lost key players at a crucial stage of the tournament.
A pandemic expansion may be in poor taste but Sports Interactive have always attempted to model the seasons to reflect current restrictions and circumstances. When the work permits situation was implemented in the UK and Europe it brought this feature in, restricting the ability for European teams to purchase international players, which felt like a sincere effort to reflect actual events. With the next season scheduled to start in its normal period there will be minimal pre-season training or breaks, creating fatigue for players.
The recent European championships have been abandoned or postponed, meaning it will have to be rescheduled during the domestic season, impacting on domestic clubs. There are many repercussions to take into account, without the possibility of a second spike bringing the season to a halt. It could take into account players going into or returning from isolation, with a random virtual dice roll deciding whether they contract the disease.
Games being played behind closed doors with minimal or no crowd interactions can easily be reflected, however the loss of income from gate revenue and TV coverage will have a substantial impact on the viability of lower league teams being able to survive this period. How will teams survive with a second spike, forcing the season to pause? Will they rely on a virtual furlough scheme perhaps? The goodwill of fans in renewing ticket sales?
There is also an ongoing, concerted effort to reflect the Black Lives Matter message across the sporting world. Will Sports Interactive reflect this? With the shadow of Brexit on the horizon, which will land halfway through the season, would any changes and restrictions to the movement of labour be reflected, similar to how the visa issue affected teams in earlier versions?
This is all, of course, speculation but it is interesting to note there is currently no news or information to date that has been released as far, as I’m aware, on what direction the studio will take in the next version of Football Manager. Equally, there are so many factors that have had a real world, substantial impact on the beautiful game that could be programmed in to reflect this sea of change.
I understand the direction the F1 game from Codemasters opted to take and it would be understandable for Sports Interactive to follow a similar path. I would speculate, which is all this is, that it would be off-putting to pretend nothing has happened. Purely from an objective standpoint there has been a substantial material impact caused not only by this pandemic but also the cultural discussion on the game. It would make sense to reflect this somehow, it would also create one of the most distinct and memorable versions of this game in recent years.
A Leeds fan.
By reader comfortablyadv (Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Twitch)
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