“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”
Socrates believed that in order to change, one has to accept it. He emphasised that instead of harping on lost time, a change should inspire us to build something new, which leads us nicely to the whole drama that has become Brexit.
Unless you have been living under a rock the past year, you will have heard about Brexit, one of the biggest political decisions taken in the UK since the Second World War. Before the EU referendum, debate raged about what the impact would be of a vote to leave the EU. Now the country has backed Brexit, the consequences and ramifications of this decision are still somewhat murky.
While the rest of the world holds its breath to see what happens when (and if) Article 50 is triggered, Football Manager 2017 features several Brexit scenarios, which model some of the consequences of the UK leaving Europe. In this article, we want to look at these scenarios and what to do if one of these occurs in your save-game.
In Football Manager, there are three possible Brexit scenarios, and you could be in for a nasty surprise in some of these scenarios. In-game, you will be alerted at some point between two and 10 years in that trade negotiations have begun, and a year later a news bulletin will detail the extent of Brexit. There are three main scenarios:
- Soft Brexit – the status quo remains intact, and nothing changes.
- Footballers are granted the same special exemptions that are currently given to ‘entertainers’. This means it is easier for them to obtain work permits than other people, and it will not have a huge impact on player movement from the EU.
- Hard Brexit: the work permit rules that apply to non-EU players are now used for EU players as well.
It is this third option that would see the biggest effect on gameplay. The points system makes it easier to obtain a work permit for a non-EU-based player if they are in the top 25 percent of earners at a club or in a league, if they have a large transfer fee or if they play for a major international team. But applying hard Brexit-like rules would have serious implications on who would be eligible for a move to a Premier League club.
Just to illustrate this point, N’Golo Kanté and Dimitri Payet, who were amongst the better players in the league last season, would never have been eligible for a Work Permit in this system. As you can see, the implementation of such rules would force one to revisit their strategy.
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Why you need to revisit your strategy
Granted, some of the big clubs would have no reason to change policies immediately. The players who are still at the club are not subject to any work permit rules and given the size of the squads and the sheer numbers of foreign youngsters still on the books, but in the long run, you will be forced to change your approach to the game or risk losing out to other clubs who have adapted to the new situation. If you’re planning any sort of long term save, you’re going to want to take this into account.
Common sense and some perusing of other people’s savegames helped us come up with three basic strategies for survival. We do acknowledge that most of us use hybrid versions of these strategies, combining two strategies to achieve success, but for the sake of this article, we’ll treat them as separate strategies.
These three strategies are not as black and white as one might be led to believe. Most clubs employ two or all three strategies simultaneously because they refuse to put all of their eggs into a single basket. They create hybrid and fluent strategies, that are altered as the finances or the ambitions of the club change. Please keep this in mind when reading on.
Prepare for the apocalypse; start hoarding
Once Brexit happens, it will be much more difficult to bring in foreign players. However, all foreign players already at the club will be exempt from the new rules. That means that if you have a fair amount of foreign players already at the club and possibly loaned to other English clubs, you could prosper, in several ways in fact.
Think about it. Players who are already under contract with an English club are exempt from the rules, either if you field them or sell them to another English club. Stockpiling on talented foreign players could become a lucrative business. You can keep the better prospects for your own team and sell the dross to other English clubs, who are desperate to sign anyone they can remotely afford.
An arms race will drive prices up; spending will cost you big
The money pouring into the Premier League means every one of the 20 clubs is able to afford excellent players which in turn means that there are no easy rides, not even for the top sides. All the teams are involved in an arms race and it takes a lot out of the players. That is why you have to rotate as a manager. As the option to bring in foreign players to strengthen the squad becomes even more expensive, the prices for domestic talent will skyrocket, ensuring even fringe squad players from any of the Home Nations will be worth their weight in gold (such a shame former Man Utd player Anderson wasn’t English eh?), just because of their passport. Basically, the transfer prices and wage demands of English (be they world class or utterly mediocre) players will go through the roof. Average players would be even less inclined to play abroad since their salaries and playing time would be far better in England.
If you want to go down this road, you have to make sure that every single signing you make counts. When you’re splashing this much cash around, you are taking huge financial risks. If one or two of your annual signings don’t work out, you are in a load of trouble. Properly scouting players and assessing their strengths and weaknesses had just become a lot more important. Unearthing that rare local gem before your rivals find him will become your top priority. You can of course always go for the Bayern-route and simply cherry-pick the best players from your opponents, but that will require deep pockets, a hefty war chest.
Youth academy and smart shopping are your best bet
The final strategy revolves around spending your resources rather smart. Instead of sinking your finite monetary resources into signing one or two big names, you could use it to strengthen the youth academy and hunt for a few bargain deals. This two-pronged approach has its advantages over just mindlessly chucking large wads of cash at every available semi-decent player like you’re some sort of Chinese mogul, drooling over the prospect of signing Carlos Tévez.
Let’s look at the academy first. Investing in the academy has its advantages. For starters, it’s a cheap way to go about your business. No scouting fees, no transfer fees, you cut down on overhead costs. New players were often home-grown academy graduates, which does not mean that they were free, but they were often a whole lot cheaper and used to the particular brand of football the club were playing, which meant less time was needed for them to adapt. The fans generally loved such an approach as well. It also means the club has fewer problems meeting the home-grown criteria the league has imposed, both short term and long term.
However, investing in just the academy is not a sound strategy to survive in the top flight of English football. Even teams like Man Utd, who had a great generation of homegrown players in the 00’s, supplemented this unique generation with outside signings. The core of the team was made up of academy graduates, but you need outside input as well.
This means that, despite the insane prices caused by the Brexit, you will need to bring in some domestic players. Ideally, you do this by focussing on specific categories of players;
- Emerging youngsters;
- The out-of-contract established players;
- Rejects from a top club.