Football Manager 2018, the latest edition in Sports Interactive’s benchmark sports management simulation for PC, will introduce a new feature when it launches Nov. 10: Players will come out as gay.
The detail is noted in the news feed that strives to approximate a real-life context for the team the player is managing and the league in which they participate. BBC Sport noted the inclusion on Monday in a feature about the game.
Openly gay male athletes who have an active career in a major team sports league are rare. In the United States, notable ones have been Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams and Jason Collins of the Brooklyn Nets, both of whom are no longer in their leagues. More frequently, gay players have come out after the end of their careers. The Premier League has had no openly gay athlete on an active roster so far. Robbie Rogers of the LA Galaxy played as an openly gay athlete following a brief retirement from professional football in England.
The choice of the Football Manager designers seems to be to push the conversation toward their acceptance. "Part of the reason we decided to do this is because there are gay footballers," said Miles Jacobson, the game's director, even if those players have not made their sexual orientation public.
“We know from the amount of professionals that there has to be players who are gay but feel they don't want to come out,” Jacobson added.
Coming out affects only fictional players, the ones generated by the game and brought into its player base every year to supplement the existing roster of real-world stars. Football Manager is a series capable of playing a century into the future, and its appeal is in acquiring, developing, manipulating and moving talent to establish a powerful soccer dynasty.
How does this affect Football Manager 2018? Other than the notation in the news feed, a club with a player who has come out will see a slight boost to its revenue, which is implied to be the support of an LGBT community either newly interested in the sport or switching its club allegiance.
Jacobson told the BBC that these events would not be gratuitous. “It's not a message that everyone is going to see in their game. It is quite rare, but we want it to be seen as a positive thing,” he said. He added that in some nations (hint: Russia) “it is still illegal to be gay,” so players for clubs in those countries will not come out.
Jacobson added that last year’s Football Manager 2017, which included the ramifications of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union (“Brexit”) influenced the team’s thinking on the coming-out topic. While some players did not care for the Brexit features, Jacobson said Sports Interactive (the developing studio) recognized that its work could help normalize important issues of the day.