One of the reasons why the Football Manager video game series is so popular is its attention to detail and the impressive depth that exists within the simulation.
Gamers are put into the position of manager at their chosen club and they must attempt to deliver success on the pitch while carefully navigating the various pitfalls that exist off it. As well as keeping their players happy, virtual bosses encounter the media and they are also expected to handle interactions with their club's board.
However, the realism of the game extends beyond the world of football. Sports Interactive, who develop the series, made headlines back in 2016 when they revealed that one of the most divisive political developments of recent times would feature in Football Manager 2017. It will also happen in Football Manager 2018.
Brexit continues to dominate headlines in the United Kingdom and across Europe as the conversation over the mechanics of the process becomes ever more protracted, but it has already been resolved in Football Manager.
WHAT IS BREXIT & WHY IS IT IN FOOTBALL MANAGER?
Brexit (which is a portmanteau of 'British exit') is the term that is popularly used to describe the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). A referendum was held in the UK on June 23, 2016 and the outcome was a 51.9 per cent vote in favour of leaving the EU.
So, why does it feature in Football Manager?
Back in October 2016, Miles Jacobson, head of Sports Interactive, explained in an interview with The Telegraph that they did not feel right about the idea of leaving such a seismic event out of the game.
"We usually try and keep politics out of the game because nobody wants it rammed down their throat," said Jacobson. "But we were left with an interesting situation this year when the people of Britain voted to leave the EU and it wouldn’t have felt right to leave that out. It’s something we had to reflect in the game."
Interestingly, instead of applying one single outcome in the game, Sports Interactive included every possibility associated with Brexit and the future of the United Kingdom is simulated with the help of artificial intelligence along with percentage chances, something Jacobson says makes every game different.
FOOTBALL MANAGER BREXIT SCENARIOS
There are a number of different scenarios that can occur in Football Manager 2017, with varying chances attached to their likelihood. In FM 17, gamers have their attentions brought to the news that negotiations on trade arising from Brexit have started and a year later they will receive a news item detailing the results of said negotiations.
Soft Brexit & footballers as entertainers
In a 'Soft Brexit' scenario, there would be few actual changes in the game, with free-movement of workers, and therefore players, from the EU remaining.
Another possible outcome of the Brexit trade negotiations in Football Manager would see footballers catergorised as 'entertainers', which would make it slightly easier for them to obtain work permits. As a result, there would be minimal restrictions on the movement of players from the EU into the UK.
In a 'Hard Brexit' scenario, the game will be altered significantly for teams in the Premier League, essentially making life more difficult for managers. Similar rules to those currently applied to non-EU players will now apply to non-UK players instead, meaning that it will be difficult for clubs to sign players from the likes of Spain, France and Germany.
What about Brexit in FM 18?
In Football Manager 2018, the phenomenon has been retained with minor changes made to reflect how negotiations have been progressing in real life. That means there is a greater chance of restrictions being applied to players' freedom of movement after Brexit. The suggestion is that Brexit is more likely to occur from 2019 on, so managers may want to stock up on foreign players before then!
FOOTBALL MANAGER BREXIT CONTROVERSY
While Football Manager's Brexit simulation was undoubtedly innovative and plenty of thought went into it as a feature of the game, it actually prompted criticism from some quarters.
One of the potential outcomes arising from Brexit in the game, though Jacobson says that it is the slimmest of all possibilities, is the creation of a united Ireland - an amalgamation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - which did not sit well with Democratic Unionist Party politician Gary Middleton.
"I will be interested to see what happens to the Northern Ireland team. Is there going to be just one team for all of Ireland in this scenario?" Middleton told the Belfast Newsletter last October.
"I know this game is very popular so I wouldn’t be telling people not to be buying it or anything like that, but these are sensitive issues, especially when it comes to Northern Ireland and our place within the United Kingdom. They need to be sensitive of that.
"They have to be mindful of the political situation and not be seen to be trying to stir people up. Sometimes with these games that is their purpose – to encourage discussion – and I wouldn’t want to be taking away from that but I don’t think that’s the case here and I do think they need to be careful around this whole issue."