Championship Manager

Championship Manager is a series of computer games, the first of which was released in 1992. Championship Manager (or "CM", "Champ", "ChampMan" as it commonly abbreviated to amongst its many fans) is a (Association Rules) football management simulation.

The Championship Manager brand and game was conceived by two brothers: Paul Collyer and Oliver Collyer. In a scenario typical of many self-mad computer game programming teams in the early days of the industry, the original Championship Manager game was written from their bedroom in Shropshire, England. Since then, they founded a development company to develop the game further, Sports Interactive, and are now based in Islington, North London. Oliver now only works for the company on a part time basis, but remains co-Chair, with his brother.

The release of the first version of the game was not an outstanding success, and sales were steady rather than spectacular. Reviews ranged from the encouraging to the dismissive; the original CM was written in BASIC, a computer programming language not well suited to programming computer games that tend to demand high performance. Other limitations included the fact that generated names were used for each team, whereas its key competitors of the time, such as Premier Manager and The Manager included real players in the game.

The release of Championship Manager 93/94 one year later built on the original game, ported to the C programming language, adding a real life player database and other features. By now Championship Manager had built a large following amongst hardened football fans all over the UK.

If the groundwork was laid with the Championship Manager 1.x series, the success of the franchise went stratospheric with the release of Championship Manager 2 in August 1995. The game again included up to date rosters for each team, added photos of each ground to build an atmosphere of the teams you were managing/visiting, and included in-match commentary from the famous British football commentator Clive Tyldesley. There then followed two more minor releases over the next two years, in the same way CM93/94 followed CM1 (this release cycle has been a common strategy for the CM series down the years). CM96/97 was released in 1996, and CM97/98 in 1997. By now the game included nine leagues from around the world (built up through a network of international data researchers), new competition formats to follow those implemented in reality, and many more tactical options.

By the time Championship Manager 3 was released in March 1999, the game had cemented its status as the football management game of choice amongst die-hard football fans and statistics throughout the UK. CM3 boasted fifteen leagues, online play, and the database had swelled to encompass over 25,000 real life players, backroom staff and the like. New features within the simulation itself included unprecedented control over football tactics, scouting and training.

CM3 was built upon with three minor updates, CM99/00, CM00/01 and CM01/02. Each one added more data and more features.

In April 2002, Sports Interactive took the brave decision to move away from the PC platform for the first time since CM1, producing a version of CM01/02 for the XBox. The success of the game saw a follow up, CM02/03 released seven months later.

What all CM fans were waiting for, however, was Championship Manager 4. Released on 28 March, 2003, CM4 broke all records on its release becoming, at that time, the fastest ever selling PC game on its first day of release. By now its fame was international; encompassing fans via online communities and buy-in through the additional leagues in the game. CM4 included thirty-nine leagues, plus four more in its minor update, CM03/04. On the gameplay side, a top-down view of the match engine was included for the first time, a significant shift from the "imagination" philosophy championed by Sports Interactive previously.

Just as the Championship Manager series has conquered new ground, however, there is potential trouble ahead. Shortly after the release of CM4, it was announced that the Championship Manager game would no longer be produced by Sports Interactive. After a mutually agreed split between Sports Interactive and the publishers of the game, Eidos, the latter, owning the rights to the Championship Manager brand, decided to move development in-house. This left Sports Interactive without a brand and even a name for the game. They are yet to announce their future plans, but it seems likely they will continue producing football management games under a different name.

Meanwhile, Eidos seek to develop Championship Manager in-house.

copyright 2004