Football Manager Research: What’s Involved?

Whenever we release a new game, there are always many posts and curiosity on social media and our forums about player and club attributes. So, with the launch of Football Manager 2024, we wanted to give you a bit of an insight into the process of getting that data in the game.

Our Research team is scattered across the globe, with representatives across a vast number of countries compiling reports and submitting changes year-round on all facets of the game – including player upgrades, league and competitions data, and more. Not only does this bring the game to life, any updates to the data are eagerly awaited by many real-life clubs, who utilise it in their day-to-day scouting and analytical work.

Football Manager Research: What’s Involved?

So, let’s start with the team structure. We have around 100 Head Researchers based worldwide – all responsible for their respective countries and regions, who ensure their nation’s analysis helps best reflect real-life football in their area.

Supporting the Head Researchers are more than 1,500 Assistant Researchers (ARs), and they help provide a more detailed picture of what goes on at an individual club level. Assistant Researchers are generally avid fans of their clubs and closely follow the team down to Under 18 level - we do not analyse players who are under 16 as they do not appear in the game. As such, ARs play an important role in reflecting an accurate picture of their club's key data points - from their backroom team setup, to favoured formations, to playing styles - and, of course, key player attributes and ability assessments.

There are very strict guidelines to follow: our research documentation is more of a small book than just a document - with over 100 pages of information that help steer the Research team in the right direction.

When the team process is complete, ARs submit all their recommended data changes to their territory's Head Researcher via our online database, which replaced our offline tool a few years ago. This means that things are much more efficient and changes come in continuously - but everything still needs to be checked, which adds additional time to the process. 

Internally, we run many database queries and analyses to find any outliers on a regular basis and, where we think there is an issue with the data, we will contact the Head Researcher for feedback as part of our continuous communication with them. Alongside our Head Researchers – many of whom have worked on the database for several years – is our internal Data Analyst, who helps to ensure there is a healthy balance and consistency when there are key changes to data.

While player, league and club evaluation happens year-round on an ongoing basis, the process for Football Manager 2024 kicked off properly in April of this year. This is necessary to ensure we're able to stay on top of the magnitude of data changes that go into every release of FM. A key part of this process is an end-of-season (European calendar) review, which allows the Research team to further refine the data based on summer transfers and the events of the previous season.

In the case of youth players who have only just signed scholarship forms, the researcher might not have time in advance of the game’s data-lock (explained below) to see them play enough times, in which case they may provide basic data, or even leave the data to be randomised. Once they've seen them play over a sufficient period of time, they can then be accurately rated.

Similarly, in the case of a player moving to a different club, their data – more often than not - will be left alone until that player has properly embedded into their new club and played an acceptable number of games, before the next review commences. The player’s attributes will be based on their historical and recent performances to try to ensure they perform in-game as they do in real life. 

We also need to bear in mind that when a player moves, or when a new manager comes into a club, a player’s role may change - and that also requires a re-evaluation after a suitable amount of matches have been played. For example, if a player is operating as a deep-lying midfielder, but has moved into a box-to-box role due to a change in circumstance, there are times when the previous ratings of a player are still correct, and other times when they need adjustment.

In the lead-up to the launch of the game, all database changes are then managed by the internal Sports Interactive Research team. A data lock comes into effect around three weeks before our launch date so that the data can be tested thoroughly by our Quality Assurance team and Alpha testers. Legal processes, such as licensing checks, also take place in advance of the game being submitted for launch across different platforms, a process that takes one to two weeks depending on the platform.

To help give you a full picture of the huge volume of changes that are made by the research team, there have been more than 13m database changes from FM23’s final update to FM24's data lock - for further context at a territory level, there have been more than 300,000 amendments in Sweden in that time, whilst Turkey has had in excess of 450,000 changes.

If you do notice issues with any of the data in the game, you can, via our forums, report any issues. We will evaluate as quickly as we can and then rectify any errors we believe are necessary at the first available opportunity.

Despite the data lock coming into effect, our evaluations continue, with our Head Researchers and Assistant Researchers regularly watching clubs and players to ensure any real-life trends are noted - and those changes are reflected in future updates for the game.

At launch, these changes are minor because of all the processes mentioned, as they are for most of the minor updates we release. If it's a simple change that can be done without a full database extraction (which massively increases the download size of an update), or if a mistake has made it in despite all of our checks, then updates can be processed - but each and every change has to be tested even more thoroughly as these can have consequences on the balance of the game. For FM24, there were a handful of important changes for the launch version.

Most of the data changes are saved for our content updates, which typically come about a month after the game’s release, then again in February or March as part of our bigger data updates following the closure of transfer windows around the world. 

Hopefully that gives you more of an understanding of how our Research team functions at Sports Interactive, and with Football Manager 2024 out now across platforms, you can see for yourself how the team’s work in this area has helped deliver our most complete edition of FM to date. 

If you’re interested in supporting our Research efforts in your area or region, please visit our Research forum for more information on how to get involved.


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