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Boardroom or Boredroom? An Unexplored Avenue

My opinion on what is currently a very limited aspect of our beloved football management simulation franchise, including how I believe it could be developed.

By on Sep 12, 2018   846 views   0 comments
Unsorted Articles - Boardroom or Boredroom? An Unexplored Avenue

The real managers of football

Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Enrique. They are just five of the top crop of managers in modern day football. As of writing this article, three of them manage major club sides across Europe (two Manchester-based club and one in Naples), another manages the Spanish national team, while Zizou is currently 'in between' jobs. In this millennium, this set of managers have won an outstanding eleven UEFA Champions League titles between them, as non-players. Eleven of a possible eighteen (if you don't count the year 2000), making up over 60% of all UEFA Champions League titles won. By five managers.

It would be easy to say that managers of their stature have significant control of how their respective clubs, when they are in club jobs, are run. That would be a safe assumption from the outside, right? Wrong. As has become more and more clear over the past few years, there are few managers who have a significant say in the running of a football club. I'm sure that there are many managers who do have a say in the boardroom, but far more who don't. This has been made evident by the much-publicised actions and words of the chairmen and presidents of the top clubs, particularly across Europe, who demonstrate their control over club proceedings. Florentino Perez of Real Madrid, Josep Mario Bartomeu of FC Barcelona, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of FC Bayern Munich are just three examples of club leaders who are never out of the limelight, for various reasons. They are outspoken, and sometimes a little aggressive, in how they approach their work, and often make the headlines for their opinions.

The likes of these club presidents, CEO's, chairmen, or whatever their title may be, show a far greater amount of control over club proceedings than others. You see presidents/CEO's/.... chairmen, let's just call them all chairmen (I know they're not all chairmen, but let's call them that for sake of ease), get involved in public debate over player actions, team performances, and a lot of them even show 100% control over player transfers. One such controversial recent case was Bordeaux chairman Stéphane Martin selling star player Gaëtan Laborde to domestic rivals Montpellier, despite the protests of manager Gus Poyet, Zdravko Mamić's time at Dinamo Zagreb was an interesting one.

There is quite a huge cultural difference (on the most part) between the chairmen of non-English clubs and the chairmen of English clubs. The likes of the Sheikhs of Manchester City, FSG of Liverpool and Daniel Levy usually prefer to stay out of the press, and get on with their work, which is of stark contrast to the likes of Perez, Bartomeu, etc, who just live to have cameras and microphones pointing at them. Of course there are exceptions in English football, with Mike Ashley, David Gold, Vincent Tan and others always saying something controversial, but in general the culture of football owners in England is more private than elsewhere.

What do chairmen in FM do?

Not much, in truth. Aside from you being able to request more finances, more coaches, affiliate clubs, new contract and facility upgrades, there's little they actually get involved with. Sometimes they'll accept bids for players without consulting you, and they do have the power to sack you, but there's not much else. Sugardaddies will invest in the club, but what do other chairmen do? Nothing. They really don't do much in FM at all, and are very quiet and unused figures.

You can go years in-game without needing to work with your chairman, if you wanted to. That should not be the case. They are your seniors, your bosses, your means to seeing the club grow, and a club doesn't run as a club without the head of the tribe. So, does it make sense that such a fundamental part of a football club isn't heavily involved in a football management simulation game? Why does it feel like chairmen are currently the crumbs in the bed, so to speak, in the game? They are the nuisance you have to brush off every now and then, because they don't really do very much.

Chairmen should be developed to become more unique, more powerful and more active in the game. It is an avenue in the game which has not yet been explored by the developers, and one which could open a whole new dynamic to how the game is played. It would make every experience at every different club unique. It would add a different emotion, a different culture, a different way of playing to each job you take on, because the whole outlook of the football club would change. To have the opportunity to work alongside, or under, different-thinking entrepreneurs or football leaders would open up a new way of playing, as your approach to developing the club does change. No two clubs would grow the same way.

What could chairmen in FM do?

I just want to see them do more. I want to see personality, I want to see a process of actions which define that chairman's reign of a football club. What will his/her legacy be? There are so many ways which chairmen can be developed/improved in Football Manager, which would add unprecedented dimensions to the game. There is so much inspiration that can be taken from real life chairmen, and implemented in to the game. To simplify things, here are a few aspects I'd like to see improved/developed:

More Manager-Chairman Interaction: Aside from the monthly review from the board and the occasional meeting asking for more transfer funds or facility upgrades, there is very little interaction between you, the manager, and the chairman. I would like to see this developed to reflect how a chairman may be involved on a day-to-day basis at times, constantly working on the development of the football club. Of course, not all chairmen are as active as each other, and this could be implemented on a spectrum, decided by the uniqueness and the qualities of each individual chairman. Some chairmen could be interacting with you on a near-daily basis, some not so often at all.

Whole Club Development Process: I would like to see chairmen show a clear process of developing the club, with defined long-term and short-term objectives and goals to shape the club in the way that they want to, either in line with the long-standing philosophies of the club or in their own image. This should extend beyond team performances in competitions, and to the club as a whole. Whether that be objectives for the financial structure, fanbase, facilities, or other aspects, there should be some sort of process for chairmen to develop the club. At the minute, the focus is purely on competition performances, and neglects the chairmen's responsibility towards the club as a whole. A football club is more than the eleven players on the pitch. So what happens on the pitch should not be the only focus of the chairmen.

Public Figure: In real life the likes of Perez, Bartomeu, etc, are major public figures. In FM, do you ever see your chairmen involved with the press? You may often see former players of yours speak to the press about your team, why not your chairmen? As I would also propose that each chairman would have a unique personality, the frequency and manner of their public appearances would have to be equally unique. Would your chairman come out and support you and your performances? Would he publicly declare his interest in signing a particular player? Would he talk sh*t about another club? Who knows!?!

Transfer Involvement: Not every chairman in the world is actively involved in the transfer dealings of a club, but the vast majority would certainly have some amount of control. Whether that be with regards to approving the transfer fee for a player either joining the club or leaving the club, the quality of player joining, the reputation of the player joining, or so on. Some chairmen in real life take things further and perform transfer dealings without consulting the manager, or take transfer negotiations out of the manager's hands. This could be implemented in game to reflect how different chairmen act in real life. At the minute, I could go out and spend £100M on *insert sh*t player (like Granit Xhaka) here* and I wouldn't even require approval from the chairman. I don't often use the acronym, but I do believe that 'wtf' would befit this scenario quite well. So, there should be some sort of reflection in-game to match real life. As with everything else I suggested, it should be on a spectrum, to match how each specific chairman would act in real life. Some are heavily involved, some are not at all.

What about the other board members?

Ignore them. I cannot envisage how they could be of any benefit in this game, in any different way to the chairman. It is nice to have a board of a few members, but I do believe it would be nearly impossible to perfectly reflect, in a microcosm, how each board works. One chairman is enough to represent the board.

Potential issues

I'd assume these changes would be a challenge to implement perfectly, although I do not know much about developing a game. I do believe it can be possible though. We already have AI managers who have fairly clear squad-building plans which they implement, so chairmen with clear club-building plans isn't too much of a leap, in my eyes. It would certainly add a unique challenge to every save you make. Managing Real Madrid would become even more distinctly different to managing another top team. Transfer markets may become extremely different for you, and so may the long-term development of your football club.

The worry would be that when first implemented, it may go over the top and destroy the balance of the game, but it is very rare that new features are implemented flawlessly initially. They usually require some sort of trial and error process, with plenty of fine-tuning. If any game developer can work out a way to implement it well, it is Sports Interactive.

I would imagine that while it would, overall, be a welcome improvement, there would be a section of players who would not like the AI having more control over their club. Although I think it would be fair to say that every change has lovers and haters; you can't please everybody! At the end of the day, this is just my opinion on a way to improve an aspect of FM. I didn't wort it very well, as it was (and still is) a big jumble in my mind, but I hope there are some others who would like to see something similar implemented.

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