When the British people opted for Brexit earlier this year, voters knew their decision would have vast consequences across a wide range of areas of public life. Little did they know it would impact the way in which they played the remarkably successful Football Manager game series.
Miles Jacobson, and the rest of Sports Interactive, talking to the Telegraph, revealed that they have built a Brexit simulator into FM17 to model some of the consequences of the UK leaving Europe. Despite the FM franchise emerging as one of the most immersive and comprehensive games on the market, often little notice is paid to the world outside football. Brexit, however, was too big a decision to not incorporate into the game, said Jacobson.
“We usually try and keep politics out of the game because nobody wants it rammed down their throat. But we were left with an interesting situation this year and it wouldn’t have felt right to leave that out. It’s something we had to reflect in the game.”
It was a more complex job than expected, however, Jacobson noted: “Preparing for the Brexit aspect of the new game has taken a lot of research, too; a lot of reading, a lot of talking to politicians and people in football.”
What followed was a realisation of the multiple different outcomes of the Brexit vote as negotiations change on a daily basis. So what does this mean for your FM17 gaming experience?
The difficulty of predicting Brexit was a noted concern for Jacobson, because of the length of the ensuing negotiations, and, resultantly, he has revealed that FM17 will contain multiple different Brexit outcomes.
“The first option for the game was to have just one scenario and that would be it, Brexit done, but it’s not possible to come out with one outcome in the game and it won’t be until all negotiations are done. As a result, we’ve decided to go down another route and have included very possible outcome in the game using artificial intelligence and percentage chances to make every game different.”
During gameplay, players of FM17 will be alerted at some point between two and ten years that trade negotiations have begun. A year later a news bulletin will outline the extent of Brexit.
Scenario 1: Soft Brexit
This means that players will likely see very limited effects of Brexit as free movement of workers remains unchanged.
Scenario 2: Middle Brexit
This is slightly more serious than scenario one, though footballers will be granted special privileges currently given to ‘entertainers.’ This means that they’ll more easily obtain work permits than regular citizens, thus it will not have a huge impact on player movement around Europe.
Scenario 3: Hard Brexit
This scenario would see the biggest effect on gameplay as similar rules currently applied to non-EU players would now be adopted for all non-UK players. This could see some EU players leave their UK clubs immediately if they’re forced to apply for work permits.
Jacobson said: “At the moment the rules for work permits for non-EU players uses a points system and we could see similar rules for all recruitment from outside the UK.”
The points system makes it easier for non-EU players to obtain work permits if they are in the top 25% of earners at their clubs or in their leagues, if they have a large transfer fee or play for a major international team. What this means, therefore, is that it would be harder for certain players to apply for permits for the Premier League. Take the examples of Dmitri Payet and N’Golo Kanté, two of last season’s best players. They were earning small wages at small clubs and hadn’t been called up to the France squad too often. A scenario three Brexit means they would have unlikely been able to move to the Premier League.
There’s also a system that the UK could adopt similar to Italy’s. Jacobson said there could be a limit on the number of non-UK players permitted that ranges anywhere from four to 17.
“If you only had four non-UK players per squad, that’s going to make things difficult. All of a sudden Championship-quality players are moving into the Premier League. That could mean the overall quality drops, and that means the TV money goes down.”
Moreover, players can expect an overall rise in transfer fees; this is all too common given the inflated market players of FM16 will have noticed after a season or two.
Footballer could also decide against playing for their home nations as it might harm their chances of playing in the Premier League. New nations like Kosovo would suffer the most in this situation.
Referendums on independence in Scotland and Northern Ireland also might mean that these players will need a work permit to play in the UK and the Bosman ruling, allowing players to move for free at the end of their contracts, could be scrapped in the UK.
Will this harm gameplay?
Ultimately, the increasing level of realism of Football Manager results in a more challenging experience each year, though, with the addition of Brexit, the game could prove even more difficult. “If there is a limit on non-UK players in England, then that isn’t going to help the Premier League. English players are not of the same quality as top foreign players,” Jacobson believes.
This could lead to drop in the ranking of the Premier League, which harms the number of Champions League places available. We currently receive four, though this could drop to three or even two. Jacobson opined: “From a British point of view it could be a positive. From a national team point of view, it could be a positive. But from an overall perspective, it’s not a good thing for football in this country.”