The Wonderful World of Football Manager: FM History & Why I Love It

Football AnalysisAs we all know, Football Manager is the biggest and most played football management game in the world. Millions of fans play the game daily, and every new edition takes the immersion into the game to the next level.

Here, I will go into the game’s history and its connections to real-life football and talk about my history with the game. Hopefully, this will be an interesting read for both new and experienced fans. Enjoy!

The history of Football Manager

football manager logo
unbekannt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As many people will know, Football Manager is not the original iteration of the game. The game started life as Championship Manager in 1992 and quickly gained massive popularity as the most in-depth football management simulation.

After that huge success, things seemingly took a turn for the worse in 2003, as Sports Interactive broke away from the game’s original publisher, Eidos Interactive.

Sports Interactive retained the source code for the game but not the Championship Manager naming rights. This led to the announcement that SI would continue their project under the name Football Manager. Eidos was left with the Championship Manager name but little else, as they had no source code or developer to continue the series.

football manager 2005Without a publisher, Sports Interactive partnered with video game giant Sega, and in 2006, the publisher acquired the rights to the game entirely. The first iteration of Football Manager came in 2005 in the shape of FM 2005, which competed with Eidos’ Championship Manager 5, a game made in conjunction with Beautiful Game Studios.

Football Manager 2005 allowed Sports Interactive the freedom to develop the game how they wanted to, and the staff got busy refining everything from the user database to the match engine and transfer options.

With Sega as a publishing partner, Football Manager went from strengthen to strengthen, and it has only grown in recent years. More people are playing and enjoying the world’s best football simulation.

In 2021, Sports Interactive chief Miles Jacobson announced via Twitter that the Football Manager franchise had sold over 33 million copies of the game series.

What happened to Championship Manager?

championship manager 1992 coverThe final game that Sports Interactive worked on with Eidos was Championship Manager 03/04, and it is considered by many to be the best Championship Manager game.

It worked out some of the issues that were present in Championship Manager 4, which had previously broken records on its release day but was not well received by some more hardened players of the game.

Championship Manager 03/04 was the best it got for Eidos, as without the Sports Interactive team, things started to go downhill, as Football Manager began to thrive. The first version of Championship Manager, developed by an in-house team, Championship Manager 5, was released in November 2004.

championship manager 03-04In terms of quality, there was a massive difference between Championship Manager and the new rival game Football Manager. While the guys at SI kept improving FM, Championship Manager struggled to attract the same interest. Quite simply, FM was a better and more innovative game.

Eidos couldn’t compete, and gradually, Championship Manager drifted off into the ether of ‘Do you remember games?’. The nadir of Championship Manager came in 2009 when Eidos released Championship Manager 2010. They didn’t sell the game at an official price but instead asked the players to set a price for themselves. This, for many, was a desperate final act of a dying series.

Unfortunately, Championship Manager was then consigned to a mobile game, with the latest iteration of the game released as a mobile game titled ‘Champ Man’, which was last seen in 2018.

Football Manager and real life

EvertonWhile for many Football Manager is their life, the management sim has extended its reach into real-life football. For instance, in 2008, Premier League Everton partnered up with the game to allow the Toffees access to their football database for scouting potential new players and their opposition.

The original creators of Championship Manager, the Collyer brothers, also supported the Merseyside outfit. Football Manager has also partnered up with the Everton women’s team in the past.

The game has also been the subject of several documentaries, as in October 2010, Stephen Milnes realised a project entitled Football Manager: More Than Just a Game. Then, four years later, An Alternative Reality: The Football Manager Documentary came out in the cinemas before also being made available via Steam.

Football Manager and real-life merged in November 2012 when a student from Azerbaijan called Vugar Huseynzade became the reserve team manager at FC Baku in his homeland. By his own admission, his success on Football Manager played a big part in his appointment.

One of the most infamous stories of Football Manager and real-life colliding took place in 2018. A part-time researcher for Football Manager discovered that Blackburn Rovers forward Ben Brereton, having watched a club interview, was eligible to play for the Chilean national team and added it as a second nationality for the former Nottingham Forest star.

On many saves, he received call-ups to the Chilean national team. A Chilean Football Manager gamer promoted Brereton’s cause, and he received encouragement from Chile’s head coach, Reinaldo Rueda and decided to apply for a passport for the South American country. In May 2021, Brereton received his first international call-up for his mother’s birth country.

However, the story of Will Still is the most famous example of a football manager and real life becoming almost inseparable. Only a few had heard of Still, who is half-Belgian and half-English, until 2022, when he hit the headlines as a budding young boss at Reims, helping the team to a 17-game unbeaten run in Ligue One.

Still only in his early thirties, the rookie boss managed the club despite not having the relevant qualifications. Every time he managed Reims, they were handed a £25,000 fine. However, such was his managerial talent that the French club stuck with the coaching wonderkid.

He may not have had the relevant qualifications at the start of his tenure in French top-flight football, but he did hold years of managing teams on Football Manager. This has obviously stood him in good stead as he was finding his way in the world of football.

While it may have only been a hobby for Still, and the effect of the football manager on his coaching career may be slightly exaggerated, he could still have learned a lot about the beautiful game from the world’s beloved football sim.

Licensing issues

official licensed stampWhen it comes to football games and real life, there are always going to be clashes, especially when it comes to things concerning finance. One massive issue for Football Manager has been licensing issues, which prevents certain clubs’ names from being used in the game.

An excellent example of that is Manchester United. The Red Devils launched a legal case against Sega and Sports Interactive in 2020 for trademark infringement. The case resulted in United being called Man UFC from Football Manager 2022.

Another example is with Italian clubs in recent years, such as Juventus, Napoli and Roma, amongst others, all have fake names in the game due to companies other than SI and Sega owning the naming rights. Juventus were famously given the Zebre moniker because their kit is black and white. However, they have appeared in recent editions with their authentic rightful name.

Meanwhile, Roma has the name Capitoline, while Napoli’s FM name is Parthenope, which is the original name of Naples, while also being a reference to the club’s nickname ‘I Partenopei (The Parthenopeans). The same goes for some clubs in Spain, with the likes of Real Betis and Real Sociedad prime examples in La Liga.

This has caused a moral dilemma for some FM players and creators, as some hero creators put these issues right by producing name packs to restore the club’s proud names. These packs also fix the problem of the German national squad being made up of fake players rather than the actual squad.

While we don’t necessarily advocate breaking licensing laws, if you do wish to acquire the real name packs, they are available from the likes of FM Scout, FM BASE and Sortitoutsi. These are also useful resources for the likes of logo packs, face packs and competition packs.

They can also be good for tactics if you’re struggling on your save and you need a slight helping hand. All three are also handy for articles on tactics and other basic FM issues.

(All these links are for educational reasons, users use these sites at their own risk. We hold no responsibility for their actions)

My history with Football Manager

david nugent playing foootball manager

While many may have read about me when I first took control of the site, some may have missed it, and this will give more insight into how and when I first started playing FM.

I first started playing Championship Manager at 14, when we got the first family PC. My mum and stepdad bought the computer to help me study for my GCSEs. Unfortunately, I was never academic, so I begrudgingly did my one-hour homework per night before spending the rest of my nights managing teams to glory originally on Championship Manager.

I have to be honest; I can’t remember which game I first played, but as it was before the Football Manager era, it was undoubtedly an ancient one. In those days, you had to buy separate disks (yes, I am that old) for each league. So, you had an English version, which you could only manage English teams in, and also various other European versions, I believe in Italy, Germany and Spain.

One feature of that first game I hated but also loved at the same time was that once you were successful, you were offered the England job. If you accepted the job, it meant that you had completed the game. If you turned down the role, you could carry on if I remember rightly. (I might be wrong, as it was 26 years ago!)

It is a far cry from the latest games, where there are so many leagues you can carry on manage for centuries if you wish. The thing is that when offered the England job, I felt proud and that I had accomplished something, which is always a good feeling, especially for an awkward teen full of anxiety.

Since first buying the game, I have purchased every version of the series. Some I have played to death, like FM23, while some, due to family and work commitments, I have neglected slightly. However, FM is the only game I buy religiously every year, as I feel that I get my money’s worth with the hundreds of hours of gameplay.

My 11-year has become obsessed with football in the last year. He plays FM casually but is still more of a FIFA zealot. He has, however, enhanced his football knowledge from playing the game and puts most grown-ups to shame with his football knowledge.

Football Manager is a world of information

world of information graphs charts etcThat brings be back to learning from Football Manager, like Will Still. As a kid, I was a contradiction, as although I was obsessed with playing football, I also loved football games, such as Sensible Soccer, Emelyn Hughes Management (I think it was called) and the early versions of FIFA.

If I was playing football, I would be playing a football game. However, I also enjoyed messing around with computers and stats, so when I discovered Football Manager at my mate’s house, it was perfect.

Before finding FM, sad as it was, I kept a record of all the Premier League squads. I had a folder and would update the squads in each pre-season, changing the numbers, and almost did scout reports for each player. This wasn’t easy because there was very little football on TV when I was growing up, as this was the days before the current blanket football coverage.

Even when SKY came along, we didn’t have it. That meant I needed to get my information somewhere, as the Rothman’s annual edition wasn’t enough. I thought all my Christmases came at once when I bought Championship Manager for the first time.

It was a mountain of information, stats and facts. When I bought it, I used it to update my football records, even extending into the big European clubs (looking back, I had a sad childhood). At the time, my parents thought it was a waste of time.

I didn’t think it would ever get past a hobby. However, like anything in life, you don’t realise you are learning if you are having fun. I soon became a font of football information, and the more I played, the more information I soaked up.

That information set the foundations for my football writer/blogger career. The story of Will Still reminded me that for most Football Manager players, it is More Than a Game, to quote the documentary title. It is an immersive experience that can sometimes be like a drug.

You find yourself thinking, ‘Just one more game’. However, ten games later, you are still playing, having not realised that hours and hours have passed. For me, unfortunately, at times, I have not had the time to enjoy my favourite pastime.

‘It’s for work, love.’

angry wife shouts at husband playing computer gamesHowever, I now have the perfect excuse to play the game ‘It’s for work, love’ is what I say, but to be honest, my other half has given up on moaning about FM, especially as it helps fund other parts of our lives. Writing about Football Manager really is a dream come true for somebody who loves the game as much as I do.

The digital age has provided many people with employment, and many have channelled their love of Football Manager into content on YouTube and Twitch. Many content creators provide excellent guides, gameplay and even humorous content centred around Football Manager.

I have a friend who is an editor for a relatively prominent Football Manager Youtuber, and he has found his niche in life, as both my friend and the YouTuber have thrived in the last few years. The game brought them together, and now they have a good working relationship and seem to have a good friendship. It’s beautiful what a so-called simple football manager sim can help achieve.

fm24 progress never stops out 6th november

Apart from the learning factor of the game and the fact it is so immersive, the beauty of Football Manager that attracts people of all ages is that anybody can play the game. You can make it as simple as you like. This could be by leaving all your duties to your staff, downloading a tactic, and signing players while doing the basics of the game.

However, on the flip side, some people take it to the extreme, designing their own tactics and training sessions and micro-managing every game aspect. These are proper hardcore FM players, more obsessed with the game than myself.

I admit I was a hardcore player in my younger years, before babies, work and the general stresses of life. I now fit more into the second category, as recruitment and team building are my favourite parts of the game.

During my teen years (yes, I was incredibly cool and charismatic), I spent hours creating tactics and getting every inch out of my team. However, I am now quite happy to defer to the very talented and patient content creators who produce excellent work, such as RDF, Josh Daly and GYR. Other content creators are available, but their tactics have been highly beneficial in recent game editions.

Why do I love Football Manager?

football manager 2024The main reason I love Football Manager is the same reason I love football. It is because it can take me away from the everyday cares of life. If you are having a terrible day, and nothing is going right, you can go on FM, and it can transport you to another world where your team is dominating the European game, despite the fact that they are really pants in real life.

People who don’t play FM seem to think that people who enjoy the game are akin to anoraks or trainspotting. However, most players are just ordinary people who happen to play a game they love. It’s a game at the end of the day, but it’s a bloody good game that will likely keep fans returning for years to come.

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