The latest edition of the Football Manager series, Football Manager 2018, has added a new mechanic that will allow for players in-game to openly come out as homosexual.
The new feature will affect ‘newgen’ players, the players that are fictionally created within the game after a certain time in order to keep the game going. Fans spotted the new feature in the current beta and Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson confirmed it on Twitter early Sunday morning.
This is not the first time that the Football Manager series has added a new feature in order to reflect real life. In last year’s edition, Football Manager 2017, Brexit appears as a scenario that can impact on your clubs ability to sign players and gain work permits.
The move to add openly gay players has been met with some online criticism, but according to Jacobson, for the most part, the news has been received positively.
Thankfully there's been a lot more positivity today than negative. Which is genuinely lovely. Night all. x
— Miles Jacobson (@milesSI) October 30, 2017
Homosexuality in football is still an issue with players feeling that they are unable to come out during their careers. Former Premier League footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger came out after he retired in 2014 and LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers recently returned to football after leaving the sport in order to come out.
Speaking with BBC Sport, Jacobson said that the new feature has been made with advice from the football-based anti-discrimination group Kick it Out and they believe this represents the most realistic future scenario for gay players.
"Part of the reason we decided to do this is because there are gay footballers," Jacobson told BBC Sport. "We know from the amount of professionals that there has to be players who are gay but feel they don’t want to come out.
"I find it weird that it’s still a problem in football so we decided to try and show people that coming out isn’t a big deal and can be a positive thing. I just think it’s crazy that in 2017 we are in a world where people can’t be themselves."
"It will be: Right, OK, let’s move on. Everything will carry on perfectly normally, because that’s what we’ve have seen happen elsewhere," Jacobson added, also speaking to the BBC, regarding how coming out may be addressed in future in the sport. "It’s not a message that everyone is going to see in their game. It is quite rare, but we want it to be seen as a positive thing. We also had to take some legal advice, because in some countries that are less forward-thinking than the UK, it is still illegal to be gay. In those cases we have simply respected their laws, so if a player is based in one of those countries, the player won’t come out.
"Being gay is just a totally normal thing in life, and it’s the right thing to put it in the game because it’s something that we’re going to be seeing in the future. I do think it’s about time that footballers who are entertaining people around the world every week are actually allowed to be themselves rather than act as someone that they’re not.
"I look forward to the day where people who work in football feel 100% comfortable with who they are, whatever their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality."