UPDATED: 01 Jun 2018

Football Manager as an esport: how does it work, how is a tournament structured, where is the skill and how can you go pro

Written by bidstack

Football Manager might not be the first game that springs to mind when you’re thinking of esports, but it is gaining a surprising amount of traction.

Benefitting from a base of dedicated players, a deep tactical system that does rewards skilled virtual managers and drawing upon the easy to understand world of football, FM’s competitive scene is gradually gathering place.

But how exactly does competitive FM work? And why is it capturing interest? Here’s our quick guide to Football Manager as an eSport.

How does a competitive game of FM work?

Competitive FM games take place using FM Touch. Each competitor is handed a pre-selected squad of balanced players and are given five to ten minutes to analyse what they’ve got. They’re then given a couple of minutes to set up their team, rushing to set up their formation, line up and team/player instructions.

Once that’s done, the game kicks off. The managers are allowed a tactical timeout of one minute in each half to make changes, with additional timeouts provided, in case of an injury or sending off. On top of that, managers can also change things up at half time and at extra time if a game goes to it.

Each match is then resolved in the usual way a football match is at any major tournament. If the fixture is played in a group stage, then they receive points based on whether they win, lose or draw the match. If it’s in the knockout phase, they either proceed for a win or exit the tournament if defeated.


And how is a tournament like FMWEC structured?

FMWEC operates in two phases: a group stage and a knockout stage. In the group stage, each player takes part in three matches. In each game they will receive three points for a win, one for a draw and none for a defeat depending on the result they achieve.

Once every fixture is completed, the table is finalised and the knockout rounds are finalised. The teams that finish in the top two slots progress to the winner’s bracket and have a chance of winning the main prize, while the teams that finish in the bottom two slots proceed to a consolation plate round.

Then the tournament shifts into a straight knockout competition. Every time a player loses, they’re knocked out and no longer continue in the tournament. But every time a player wins, they progress to the next round. The winner of the tournament is the player who makes it to the final and emerges victorious.


When did Football Manager become an esport?

Football Manager first became an esport when The Set Pieces hosted an FM Cup across the UK. With the winners of each regional heat getting a grand and the Glaswegian winners walking away with £5,000, it helped set the game on the road to becoming an esport.

We then built on that work by hosting the inaugural Football Management World eSport Championship (FMWEC) at Insomnia 62 in March 2018. The bidstack tournament raised the stakes by boosting the prize money to £15k and giving the winner the chance to manage a real football team, with Daniel Fry becoming the first FM world champion.


Where is the skill in winning a game of competitive Football Manager?

The majority of the skill in FM as an esport comes prior to each match up. The best FM players are able to look at a squad, understand how it all fits together and make sure they’re getting the best out of it.

A large part of this comes from taking the pre-balanced squad of players and making the most of it. For example, a side featuring Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo as attacking options will inevitably feature lower quality defenders and goalkeepers. Managers will therefore need to work out how to get the best out of their star players, while preventing their weaker links from being exposed.

Competitive FM players must learn to love this screen (though not necessarily the team on it)

Additionally, FM challenges players to understand how tactical shapes, team mentalities, instructions and player roles blend together. While FM Touch removes the complexity of team cohesion, it still rewards players who understand how to blend together all the elements of the tactical engine to create a workable game plan.

Finally, competitive FM does reward players who are able to change the tide of a match when things are going against them. With tactical time outs limited in both length and frequency, a manager who is able to read when a game is going against – or for them – and make the difference from the dugout is primed to succeed.


How can I become a competitive FM player?

The first step to becoming a competitive FM player is to learn the ins and outs of the game itself.

As well as becoming familiar with roles, instructions, mentalities and the other interlinking elements of the tactical system, it’s also important for players to develop a strong understanding of individual footballers in the database to allow them to quickly assemble systems under pressure.

On top of that, it’s actually important to understand the tactical and strategic side of football itself. By understanding how different systems are set up and work in the real world, managers can convert practical lessons on, say, the best way to operate an effective press into team instructions.

Finally, players have to actually take part in competitive FM events to take that first step on the route to becoming a pro. Entering FMWEC might be the jewel in the crown, but there are often smaller events taking place that could be a good place to get that first foot on the ladder.

Follow the Football Management World esport Championship on Twitter @FMWEC_.

Written by bidstack | 01 Jun 2018