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Football Manager 2017 stirs Brexit controversy

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Soccer simulation predicts nasty turn for English teams

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As businesses and politicians in Britain grapple with the consequences of quitting the European Union — aka Brexit — one section of the gaming population is already getting a pretty clear idea of how things might pan out.

Sega's Football Manager series has always taken realism seriously, offering a deep strategy game for players who want to really feel like they are running a soccer club. This year's iteration, Football Manager 2017, features various scenarios under which managers of British domestic clubs have to face new restrictions based on Brexit.

Writing on Eurogamer today, self-confessed Football Manager "saddo" and weekly podcaster George Osborn outlines how these changes are altering the way diehards play the game.

FM2017 randomly assigns one of three possible Brexit scenarios, two of which have only minimal impact on the game. But the third, "hard Brexit" outcome, under which Britain's immigration laws become extremely strict, forces players to take drastic action.

England's Premier League is the richest in the world, offering high wages to foreign players and an insatiable demand for new talent. As it stands, English teams attract big-name players from all over the world, as well as young talent.

Under a hard Brexit, the only players allowed into the country would likely be those who have a proven record of excellence, as defined by playing for their country on a regular basis. This would count out a lot of foreign players currently in the Premiership.

Sega / Sports Interactive

Osborn's deep knowledge of FM2017 demonstrates how players are coping with this enormous disadvantage, and how it affects the footballing economy across Europe. It's a fascinating insight into how football might shape up in the years to come, and offers clues for other businesses which rely on attracting talent from abroad.

"With the Premier League's purchasing power stunted, less money slushes through the system abroad," he writes. "This incentivises clubs in countries who normally sell players to Britain, such as the Netherlands, to retain their talent, or to sell it for less to clubs in other nations like France, Germany or Italy.

"As a result, this improves teams in other leagues, slowly driving down the reputation of British teams and competitions as a result. This makes it even harder to sign foreign talent and pushes up the cost of home-grown players, leaving British managers up shit creek."

Some managers are simply choosing to take their simulations outside Britain, opting instead for big continental sides which can freely trade with one another. For those who believe that Brexit is a great foolishness that will cause enormous damage (I’m British), this is a tiny peek into the likely behavior of corporations and consumers in years to come. Why deal with unnecessary hassle, when you can take your business elsewhere?

Writing in The Guardian earlier this month, Football Manager creator Miles Jacobson made the excellent point that he seemed to have done more work to prepare for the possibility of Brexit — which was voted by referendum in the summer — than the British Government. His inclusion of Brexit attracted a lot of media attention in Britain, where the shock vote to quit the EU, and the government's handling of the situation, is a matter of enormous discontent.

"When the referendum result came it was a shock, not because pollsters got it wrong. That’s not unusual. But this time the bookmakers got it wrong, and I’m yet to meet a poor bookie. What shocked me even more was the 'What do we do now?' coming from the government. The Brexiters didn’t have a plan. It wasn’t their job apparently. Yet I’d spent the months leading up to the vote researching what could happen either way."