Sports Interactive and Sega today announced that a multi-year multi-million project has began to bring women's football into the Football Manager series. The developer added that this will not be a standalone women's football simulation, but fully incorporated into Football Manager, "with managers able to take control of either men’s or women’s clubs and move between them seamlessly."
The studio hasn't put a firm timeframe on the project, saying that the "development team is committed to ensuring that women’s football is represented as authentically as possible and with the level of realism and attention to detail that the series is renowned for" and won't announce a launch date until that standard's been hit.
Miles Jacobson, studio director at Sports Interactive, said: "We have no interest whatsoever in making a standalone women’s football version of FM. What we are doing is adding women’s football to FM... one sport, one game.
"We know that adding women’s football to FM is going to cost in the millions and that the short-term return it delivers will be minimal. But that’s not the point. There’s no hiding that there’s currently a glass ceiling for women’s football and we want to do what we can to help smash through it. We believe in equality for all and we want to be part of the solution."
Major figures in the sport welcome the news. “Women's football is capturing the imagination of fans across the globe and we're making huge strides in terms of attendance figures and broadcast deals,” says Chelsea FC Women manager, Emma Hayes. “For the women's game to get to the next level, though, it needs to be recognised as an integral part of the world of football, not something separate and different. We want future generations to grow up in a world where football isn't divided into 'women's' and 'men's'... it's just football. The ambitious plan that the Sports Interactive team have for Football Manager will play a huge part in getting us there.”
Hayes has history with the franchise too, becoming the first British female manager of a women's team to be added to the FM database back in 2018.
Jacobson's written a detailed blogpost talking about some of the practicalities of this work. He begins by explaining why this project is much wider than just releasing a women's database that works within the existing Football Manager. "This simply wouldn’t work, as there’s a lot more to adding women’s football to FM than simply replacing the male players with female players, but the question of women’s data is an interesting one, so let’s start there."
"First of all, it’s going to take some time to build a comprehensive global database of women’s football. Our existing database has taken 28 years to build (so far) and there’s a lot of info in there that we need to research when adding just one team, let alone multiple leagues. To get our women’s database right we will have to examine every single in-game attribute and define exactly how we judge the data; attributes such as pace, acceleration and agility will likely stay with the same range, but some attributes may need a different scale. These attributes also feed into our match engine of course, and work done in this area (for example, looking at height of players and how that may affect how they play—such as aiming shots higher if a goalkeeper is smaller) will be of benefit for the match engine overall."
There are currently fan-based projects, such as the Women's Database, which attempt to bring some of the women's game into FM, but as Jacobson points out, it's not just about the data.
Among other things there's a huge amount of mocap to be done, as Sports Interactive currently has a wealth of mocapped data for male players but when this is applied to a female character models "well… they kind of move like cowboys."
"We’ve already completed our first two motion capture sessions with the London-based twin professionals, Rosie and Mollie Kmita. Given the restrictions applied to motion capture during a pandemic it was essential that we were able to work with two people who shared a ‘bubble’ and Rosie and Mollie provided the perfect solution, as well as being fantastic footballers."
Sports Interactive also has a newly-appointed head of research for women’s football, Tina Keech, a qualified coach and former head of research and analysis at Smartodds, who has already started building the women’s database.
The team is currently producing a full design document that "will give us a multi-year roadmap for engineering tasks. Nothing in FM is ever finished—there is always more we can add—and the same will be the case with women’s football. It won’t be a case of just adding it, then forgetting about it, but it will continue to grow along with the rest of the world that we create for you to manage in."
Jacobson ends by saying that "we are realistic that bringing women’s football to FM is going to be a multi-year project. At this stage we don’t know exactly how long the process will take so we can’t say exactly which version of FM will see women’s football make its debut, but rest assured that our plan is to make this happen as soon as we possibly can, whilst ensuring that you are still getting all the features you’d expect from new versions of FM by adding resources to the existing team."