It’s been a while since Kill Screen checked in on the Brexit fallout. Last time around, David Cameron was still an active Member of Parliament and Nigel Farage was giving awkward interviews about the NHS while looking a bit like Downton Abbey’s gawpy interpretation of Pepe the Frog. How time flies!
In the four brief months since a plurality of Britons voted to commit economic and diplomatic harakiri, the venerable Football Manager series has managed to simulate the decision’s effects on the sport in its next entry, Football Manager 2017. And as Miles Jacobson, the man in charge of the videogame series, told The Telegraph, the results are not promising:
It soon became obvious that the possible ramifications in football were almost endless, and also constantly changing.
“Of course, none of us know what will happen,” says Jacobson, “it changes on a daily basis.
“Six weeks ago I would have predicted a soft Brexit, but after the Conservative Party conference a hard Brexit is much more likely.
“We know Article 50 will be invoked before the end of March, but we don’t know how long negotiations are going to take. They could take two years but there could be a general election within that time. There are provisions that if a deal hasn’t been reached, negotiations could be extended or even scrapped.
Far be it from me to kick a polity when it’s down, but when a sports simulator has now put more thought into the possible permutations and consequences of Brexit than most politicians clearly did, something has clearly gone very, very wrong.
But it is true that Brexit will make life harder for soccer clubs. One of the advantages of European Union membership is that it facilitates the movement of workers from one member state to others—including soccer players. (This movement, incidentally, is not something Brexiteers have ever been fans of, though soccer players are not their main concern.) In a post-Brexit world, obtaining work permits for all but the most exceptional of European players will become harder.
Mind you, Football Manager’s Brexit simulation doesn’t feel entirely laudable. It’s reminiscent of the way that a parallel field, fantasy sports, has turned athletes into abstractions. Every Sunday during the NFL season, you can watch for people complaining how an ACL sprain cost them their fantasy league. That’s what now passes for perspective.
In the same way that fantasy sports encourages a cold attitude towards sportsmen, Football Manager’s focus on the sports-related tragedy of Brexit seems to encourage viewing this scenario primarily through the lens of sports. You can choose to do so, but that is to miss the larger-scale suffering inflicted by Brexit, the xenophobia that just cannot be wished away, the financial crisis it may well wreak. Football Manager can’t simulate those things, but it would be nice to see someone center those things.