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Football Manager to include gay players for first time in series' history

"I just think it's crazy that in 2017 we are in a world where people can't be themselves," says game director

Sports Interactive has announced that Football Manager 2018 will be the first iteration of the series to include gay players.

There are around 4,000 professional footballers in the UK but none are openly gay. Speaking with the BBC, game director Miles Jacobson said he was hoping to "normalise the issue".

"Part of the reason we decided to do this is because there are gay footballers," he said. "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."

In 1998 Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay professional footballer, took his own life eight years after coming out. Players who have come out since then have done so after retiring.

A BBC Radio 5 survey last year found that 82% of football fans in England, Scotland, and Wales said they had no issue with gay players, while 8% said they would stop watching their team.

"We are not going to be able to change the mind of someone who is homophobic, we don't have that power, and if someone has that issue and decides not to buy the game for that reason then to be honest I feel really sorry for them," said Jacobson. "Hopefully, it will make some people look up and think, 'this is ridiculous'."

Sports Interactive has been quick to tackle important issues in the past, opting to include various Brexit outcomes in Football Manager 2017. Jacobson said that the decision to feature Brexit in the previous version of the game emboldened the development team to not shy away from things that matter.

"The Brexit feature was quite controversial, there were some people who didn't like it being in the game," he said. "But it helped us realise we can be a bit more outward in our thinking in trying to make the world a better place."

In Football Manager 2018 the players who will come out as gay will be the procedurally generated ones which appear when real-life players retire in the game. Importantly, Jacobson says, when a player comes out it won't actually be a big deal in the simulation.

After consulting with anti-discrimination group Kick it Out, the development team fashioned the scenario to be as representative of reality as possible.

"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. 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," he said.

"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."

Football Manager 2018 is scheduled for release on November 10th, 2017.

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