A game within a game

Football fans worldwide will be celebrating 2022 – to mark the 30th Anniversary of the series once known as Championship Manager, now Football Manager, a game, within a game. A game that’s story begins with two brothers: Paul and Oliver ‘Ov’ Collyer, deciding to try and make their own game of football management.

“Checking out all the other games of the time, and deciding we didn’t like them very much so, in our arrogance, deciding that we might be able to do it better”.

The Early Years

In 1985, the Collyer Brothers had decided to create their own football management game. To achieve their goal, it took time for their ambitions to come to fruition. With only the two of them working on the game, it is understandable to see why. The original game, Championship Manager, was eventually released in 1992. Generally, the game was not a huge success – using generated names for teams, rather than real ones. A move not welcomed, at the time, by fans of the genre. Similar games such as: Premier Manager and The Manager, were already using official club logos and real players.

As time went on – things improved. The brothers tried to take on the genre and wanted to be top. There were knockbacks, of course, with Electronic Arts (EA) infamously turning Championship Manager down for not featuring enough ‘live action’. “The ‘no graphics’ thing was a big thing. I remember ‘bolt some graphics on there’ was the exact phrase used”.

The Original Championship Manager Game

The Golden-Age

The original Championship Manager game may be now long forgotten, but the game set out the blueprint for the rest of the series. In 1993, the release of Championship Manager ’93 added real-life players to its database and later added the top two divisions of Italian football (Serie A and Serie B) with Championship Manager Italia. A very welcomed edition to the game. The popularity of Italian football in the 1990’s was rife. Roberto Baggio, Marco Van Basten, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini. Household names – the game, transformed overnight.

The Championship Manager 2 Era (from 1996 – 1998) included up-to-date squads for each team, photos of each ground and in-match commentary, with the voice of (the legendary) Clive Tyldesley. Champ Man 96-97 was the first game to feature a non-British league as playable in the game, along with several rule changes reflecting real-life changes in football. The 97-98 Champ Manager saw the expansion of this and the games fan-base grew, as it became more realistic to play.

Champ Man 3 used real-player and stadium images only which increased realism

Championship Manager 3 (from 1999 – 2002) saw more improvements – media coverage, board interactions and improved scouting functions, all being added into the game. The addition of the American Major League Soccer (MLS) saw the 1999 edition of the game receive a “Gold” sales award for reaching 200,000 copies sold in the United Kingdom alone. The South Korean K-League followed in 2001 and a year later, the game expanded its audience by moving away from PC and producing a version of Championship Manager 01/02 for the Xbox.

The Rise and Fall… and the Rise

In 2003, Championship Manager 4 became, at the time, the fastest-selling PC game on its first day of release. However, it was generally not well received by hardcore fans, as the game ran slower on PC than previous versions and had bugs in the database.

“Despite the fact it was a shit game and people bought it thinking it wasn’t going to be, it did benefit the studio and the future games. Sometimes you have to go through something difficult to be able to do something better in the future”.

The Collyer Brothers at Sports Interactive – taken in 2019.

Championship Manager 4 would be the last edition of the game. Before the game, as it was known evolved, forever. Football Manager was born. Speaking in 2008 on a Sports Interactive forum, Paul Collyer said:

“We both definitely prefer to be working on the game(s) than doing PR stuff”.

The Collyer brothers, who founded Sports Interactive in 1994, first became involved with Miles Jacobson as a fan of the game (after obtaining an advance copy of Championship Manager 2 in exchange for two Blur concert tickets). He quickly became an official business advisor before becoming part-time Managing Director in 1999 before taking the helm on a full-time basis in 2001. Miles has largely been the main man driving the Football Manager Era of the game ever since.

Football Manager 2005 – Present

To fully unpack the years between the foundation of Football Manager 2005 to where we are today, is something for a future blog post. What is clear, is Football Manager has gone from strength to strength. In 2005, it became the 5th fastest-selling PC game of all time, in 2006, it became the 2nd fastest-selling PC game, and of course, the game has only continued to grow in popularity.

Did You Know? Football Manager data on players has even been used by sports journalists on Sky Sports News

By 2019, Miles Jacobsen tweeted:

“A year ago today, there were just over 50,000 of you playing #FM18 via Stream. As I type, there are 70,241 of you playing #FM19 via Stream”

If you love football – and you have grown-up wanting, dreaming even, to be a professional footballer, but not made it. Football manager is quite possibly, the closest you will come to living that profession. With crazy journeyman saves, travelling across every continent on the planet to glory-hunt, to a non-league legend, trying to build your boyhood team to the top of world football, to reliving previous years in retro databases, through using add-ons the game offers nowadays to make it possible to customise the game to your heart’s desire. The opportunities are endless.

Football manager – a game like no other – a game within a game. You can make this whatever you want. Especially in the current climate, this game has given many of us a much-needed sense of relief, something to distract us, something to keep us calm, something to soothe the soul. Football manager, we salute you. And in advance for next year –Happy 30th Birthday.


The FM Retro Group are a group within the Football Manager PC gaming community, that specialise in recreating past seasons in the latest editions of the game. So, if you are playing Football Manager 2020 but fancy using the players, the kits, the leagues from the 1999-2000, why not check out their page?

The Hex Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s