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Football Manager 2009 breaking ground with Everton

It had to be destiny. Not only are the people behind Football Manager seeing their creation employed by the very top of the game, but the agreement is with Everton - the boyhood idols of the two founders of the worldwide phenomenon.

Last month, SEGA and Sports Interactive announced that Everton had signed an exclusive deal with the developers of Football Manager to give manager David Moyes and his coaches unrivalled access to its database of over 370,000 players and staff.

As Miles Jacobson, Sports Interactive's studio director, explained, it was a dream come true for Oliver and Paul Collyer.

He told tribalfootball.com: "Oliver and Paul Collyer, the founders of Sports Interactive, are both big Everton fans, so you can imagine how happy they are about the deal!

"Paul came up to Everton with me for the photo shoot and was like a kid in a sweetshop, being allowed to be photographed inside the ground, and standing on the sidelines. Paul is responsible for the match engine in the Football Manager series, and Ov is the lead on Football Manager Live, so both are still very much involved at every level at SI."

As Jacobson explains, there were always rumours that major clubs were tapping into Football Manager's vast database to check on up-and-coming talent, but nothing was ever confirmed. The Everton deal now puts that to rest - and brings great credibility to not only Football Manager 2009, which was launched last month, but also the game's huge army of scouts across the globe.

"The reaction in the studio is one of complete pride - to have something that we've been working on for so many years that is made by football fans, for football fans, ratified by a massive club, with huge history, is something that none of us even dreamt of when we first started out making our little football management simulation," says Jacobson.

"It shows that our decision 16 years ago to use football fans to act as our research network has been proven correct, and finally puts to bed the rumours of clubs using the database, as it's now fact!

"We have provided Everton with our complete database over 370,000 players and staff from around the world, who are all rated with a few hundred stats. There's a lot of stuff in there that you don't see in the game or the editor, so they have a definite advantage."

So who from Goodison Park will be tapping into the database?

"We're told that the database will be used directly by their footballing staff, although I haven't personally sat down for a drink with David Moyes, but I'm open to offers!" laughs Jacobson.

The Everton agreement is a great fillip for the 1000-plus amateur scouts connected to Football Manager. Down the years, the game's army of spotters have uncovered world-class talent ahead of the media - and even some major clubs. Everton are hoping to tap into that enthusiastic eye for talent.

"Our typical scout is a mad football fan, like you, me, or the readers of tribalfootball.com," says Jacobson, "although they tend to not just watch first team football, but also reserve and youth team football. Their reaction has been much like the studio's - very proud that their work is taken so seriously."

Jacobson is quick to rattle off several big-names that Football Manager scouts identified ahead of any top clubs.

"To name just five, how about Wayne Rooney, Leo Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Saviola, Samir Nasri all being in the game, and becoming superstars in long term games, at least a year before they made first team debuts? There are tens of thousands of examples of players at every level that our scouts have spotted as having great potential before they are known to even fans of the clubs that they play for.

"We have well over 1000 scouts around the world - it's estimated at 1500. We have head researchers in over 50 countries and regions, and the individual scouts report into the heads, who then report into our head of research and his team at Sports Interactive.

"The research guidelines are huge - book sized. We also have various tools that run through data sent in to check that it's not overrated."

The timing of the Everton agreement couldn't have been better for Sports Interactive, coming on the eve of the Football Manager 2009 launch. But rather than seek approval and plaudits from the games industry, the creators were more concerned about how it was to be received by the diehard Blues supporters.

"I haven't spoken to many (within the industry) about it really. Certainly the press coverage, and forum coverage, has been pretty enthusiastic," Jacobson reflected.

"The Everton supporters' feelings were important, and from the forum threads I read, they were very positive about it."

What's next for Football Manager is anyone's guess - and is probably what has kept the design team together after 16 years. Certainly there's surely to be more great stories like John Boileu's cheeky application for the Middlesbrough job - and the good-natured response he received from chairman Steve Gibson.

"I don't think we can top the Middlesbrough story, and certainly not Steve Gibson's reply," laughed Jacobson. "We're told that at least 50% of the applicants for any football management job are from people who play the game, including a 12 year old who applied and said that his Mum was happy to wash the kits!"

Which really sums up what football - and the story of Football Manager - is all about. The dreams of everyday fans.


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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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