With Football Manager, developer Sports Interactive has always tried to make the most authentic manager simulator possible. Juggling transfers, training and match tactics — it’s a deep, addictive blend of strategy, statistics and luck. For the latest version, Football Manager 2017, the team is going one step further by including the British EU referendum. The UK will trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, beginning its separation with the EU. It could have financial and legal repercussions for the football industry too, which Sports Interactive is keen to emulate. The problem is that until it happens, predicting the exact consequences is tricky.
The UK will, after all, need to negotiate the terms of its new relationship with Europe. Miles Jacobson, director of Football Manager, told the Telegraph that multiple scenarios have been modelled out. As you play the game, you’ll be notified two to 10 years in that trade negotiations are now underway. Later, you’ll be told that the UK has come to one of three possible agreements; “soft Brexit,” allowing free movement of workers, “hard Brexit,” which would categorise EU players (currently outside the UK) in the same way as players based outside the EU; an exemption of footballers as “entertainers,” making work permits simple to obtain.
As an example of how it can work – this is what happened in my current game last night. pic.twitter.com/x1DhFYN1IJ
— Miles Jacobson (@milesSI) October 18, 2016
The hard Brexit option will have the biggest impact on aspiring managers. Players living outside the UK would need to apply for a points-based work permit, regardless of whether they’re inside the European Union. That could make some transfers difficult, and force virtual Mourinho’s to consider British alternatives. “If we already had these rules in place, players such as N’Golo Kante and Dimitri Payet would not have been able to gain work permits to move to the Premier League,” says Jacobson.
Football Manager is all about the details. The game’s player database is so good, for instance, that clubs now use it as a real-life scouting tool. That authenticity is what drives football fans back to the game, even when they’re struggling to pull together a couple of wins. The inclusion of Brexit is just another way Sports Interactive is trying to make the game feel more realistic — a small touch, perhaps, but one that fans should appreciate.