Football Manager will soon include women’s football

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Football Manager 2021 developer Sports Interactive has announced it is currently working on adding women’s football into its complex football management game system. While the developer can’t say when this feature will arrive in the series, studio director Miles Jacobson tells us he feels strongly that it’s “the right thing to do” to help advance women’s football generally.

“It’s not something the company should normally admit to, but we were a part of the problem, and are now determined to fix that, and to force others along the way as well,” Jacobson explains. “Which is one of the reasons why we’re announcing it without a timeline – to say that we’re doing it, it’s partly because we need to throw down that gauntlet to others, to be doing the same.”

Tina Keech, a former player and qualified football coach who is also the former head of research and analysis for Smartodds, is heading up Sports Interactive’s research into women’s football for the project, which will see the women’s sport incorporated into Football Manager rather than spun out as a separate game.

With Football Manager diving into dressing room culture and interpersonal dynamics between players, Keech says she’s interested in portraying the major cultural differences between men’s and women’s football.

“The culture in women’s football is very different to men’s football, and unless you’ve played the game, or know people that do play it, you probably wouldn’t pick up on it,” Keech says. “And so, this is why the researchers we get have got to be real fans – that network is unlimited, and we need to get into the social side of it and understand how the women’s game goes and is played to make it as real-life as possible. And it’s absolutely not going to be easy.”

Jacobson goes into some detail about the challenges involved in adapting Football Manager’s current systems to include women in a new post on the Football Manager blog. Among them, he says, are some 100,000 strings of gender-specific text that all need to be re-written and then re-translated into 19 languages. There’s also the issue of creating motion capture animation for female player models, and decisions to be made about how to handle things like player pregnancy.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and it’ll cost millions of pounds. Jacobson says that’s made the prospect look like a bad idea from an accounting standpoint in the past – it’s likely that the financial return on this investment will be minimal, at least in the short term. However, Keech and Jacobson say they’re nonetheless determined to make it happen.

“I don’t have a lot of regrets in life, but one is that I wish that we’d started this process earlier,” Jacobson says. “And I apologise to people for the fact that we didn’t do that.” He says he hopes the move is another “crack in the glass ceiling” for women’s football, and that if enough of those happen, the current upper limit will eventually shatter – and hopefully, sooner rather than later.

“I believe we’re on the right track,” Keech says. “I mean, you look ten years ago, and I never would have imagined that you’d be getting 60,000 into a stadium watching a women’s game.

“In ten years’ time, what I’d like to see is more money in the game, players getting paid more, clubs getting paid more,” Keech says. “We’re a new generation. I’ve got young girls who I hope to be having role models they can look at… I want them to actually be able to watch the game easily, be able to get into the game and go, ‘Yeah, mommy, I want to go do that.”

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