Football Manager is finally getting women’s football

Football Manager is getting women’s football in the future, developer Sports Interactive has announced.

This is not via a separate standalone Football Manager game – rather, it is via complete integration into the mainline Football Manager.

The addition of women’s football won’t make it into FM22, Sports Interactive boss Miles Jacobson told Eurogamer in an interview today. But women’s football is coming – and could be added to FM post-launch in the middle of its year-long life cycle.

In a blog post, Jacobson said adding women’s football to Football Manager will cost millions of pounds in terms of development investment, and the short-term return on that investment will be “minimal”.

But, Jacobson insisted, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Sports Interactive started building a database of women’s football just a few months ago, but the plan is for it to eventually rival the men’s football database it has created over the course of nearly three decades.

Football Manager currently uses around 1200 researchers worldwide who view matches week in, week out in a bid to help keep the men’s database as authentic as possible. Sports Interactive wants to match that authenticity for women’s football.

To that end, qualified coach and former head of research and analysis at Smartodds, Tina Keech, has been drafted in as Head of Women’s Research at Sports Interactive to spearhead the mammoth task ahead.

“In a couple of months, I’ve done pretty well,” Keech told Eurogamer. “I’m pretty proud of myself. But now we’re going full steam ahead I’ll be able to get some help and we’ll create a good one.”

Keech told Eurogamer the significance of Sports Interactive’s commitment to women’s football, which also involves commercial partnership agreements for the 2021/22 season with Leicester City Women, is “massive”.

“I’ve played football my whole life. I’ve watched it. I’ve coached it. I’ve been in that game. I’m a fan. I’ve got two young girls who love playing football. This is massive for the game,” Keech said.

“There is a glass ceiling, which shouldn’t be there. And to be part of smashing it down, I feel incredibly proud to be part of this, to be doing this.

“It should have happened earlier. These bigger companies should have come in earlier. But they’re there now. It’s a massive statement. And hopefully others will jump in and go, right, let’s give women’s football the respect and the attention it deserves. I can only see good things coming from this.”

Jacobson told Eurogamer that when women’s football is added to Football Manager, it will come in the form of leagues that will work in the same way leagues work in the current game. That is, you can select which leagues are in your game, keeping the game speed manageable.

You’ll also be able to sign coaches from a women’s team to coach a men’s team – and vice versa.

However, there is an ongoing debate within the studio about how the attributes of women players will work. While Football Manager’s existing 1-20 attribute scale will remain for the women, Jacobson said the developers are looking at certain attributes “where the gap might be a little bit more wide” between the men and women, to see how they may affect gameplay.

However, Keech stressed no decision on attributes has been made – and said there are different points of view on this debate internally.

“To be honest, it’s a difficult one, it really is,” Keech said. “We haven’t agreed on anything. There are lots of different points of view. We’ve obviously got to test it as well, make sure the game is accurate and represents women’s football properly. There is no agreement on anything yet.”

Unfortunately, Sports Interactive has already received some negative comments on social media following the announcement. Pre-empting this reaction, Jacobson told Eurogamer he had a stark message for these “fans”.

“To be really clear to people: consumer choice – if you don’t like the decisions we’re making around the game, don’t buy it. If you think adding women’s football is going to denigrate your experience, well I’m sorry, I hope you find another experience somewhere else that you can enjoy.

“We believe very strongly that this is the right thing to do.”

Sports Interactive has secured a number of official licenses related to real-football leagues for the existing Football Manager game. Does it plan to secure an official license for the Women’s Football League for when women’s football launches in-game?

Jacobson kept his cards close to his chest when asked, but it sounds like talks are ongoing behind closed doors.

“We would love to have as many licenses as we can possibly get hold of across the whole of football, whether that be men’s football or whether that be women’s football,” he said.

“So yes, those conversations will definitely be happening. And there’s probably been some conversations happening already in the background. It makes it a lot easier to have those conversations now!

“We will be going for as many licenses as we can get – in a non-exclusive way, which is very important. Because if we want other people to come on this journey with us in the game space, which we absolutely do, by doing non-exclusive licenses, it means that no-one gets shut out.”

Sports Interactive’s announcement of the addition of women’s football to Football Manager comes hot on the heels of EA Sports’ announcement that Alex Scott is set to become the first female broadcast voice in FIFA as a co-commentator in FIFA 22.