Championship Manager

Championship Manager is a series of English computer games, the first of which was released in 1992. Championship Manager (sometimes abbreviated "CM", "ChampMan", "Champ") is a football (soccer) management simulation. It is one of the most popular computer game franchises of all time.

The Championship Manager brand and game was conceived by two brothers: Paul and Oliver Collyer. In a scenario typical of many self-made 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 Collyer brothers and Sports Interactive are no longer involved with the development of Championship Manager (see below).


Championship Manager 1 (inc 93/94 update)

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 programming language not well suited to programming high performance computer games. 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.

Championship Manager 2 (inc 96/97 & 97/98 update)

If the Championship Manager 1.x series laid the groundwork, 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 a now infamous in-match commentary engine with the voice of famous British football commentator Clive Tyldesley. This was pulled from future releases. 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.

Championship Manager 3 (inc 99/00, 00/01 & 01/02 updates)

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 statisticians 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 decision to move away from the PC platform for the first time since CM2, producing a version of CM01/02 for the Xbox. The success of the game saw a follow up, CM02/03 released seven months later.

Championship Manager 4 (inc 03/04 update)

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. Over 250,000 football players and non-playing staff are included in CM03/04, though many users may choose a smaller database for faster computer performance.

Despite its high sales, CM4 was generally not well-received by hardcore fans of the series for several reasons. First, many users found the game to be very slow on computers which had previously had no difficulty in running CM series games (although arguably this is a common issue with software). The original release contained some functional bugs which in some cases rendered the game farcical - the score in matches could randomly change and lower division clubs were able to sign superstars with ease. In one memorable bug, non-league club Northwich Victoria moved to a stadium with a capacity of 850,000. Sports Interactive also irritated some fans with the euphemistic term "Enhancement Packs" used to describe what were essentially patches to fix issues in the original release. While these "Enhancement Packs" and the next release, CM03/04, did iron out many of these problems, in some cases irreparable damage had already been done by the release of CM4 and the company's perceived reaction to criticism.

The Split

The creators of Championship Manager, SI Games, split with publishers Eidos, and signed a deal with Sega, and a new series called Football Manager has been created. After the split, both parties kept their intellectual property. SI Games kept the base code, the game database and programming of the game, whilst Eidos kept the name "Championship Manager" and its interface. The former working partners will now be in direct competition - Eidos (and the new developers Beautiful Game Studios or BGS) producing Championship Manager 5 and Championship Manager Online, and Sega & SI Games competing with Football Manager 2005. Although under a different name, Football Manager is likely to be very similar gameplay-wise to the previous CM games, whereas CM5 is likely to be a totally new gaming experience due to the new CM5 development team taking on the challenge. This emergence of Football Manager 2005, and the fierce marketing battle between the two could spell danger for EA Sports' less successful Total Club Manager series and other less successful football management games.

Championship Manager 5

Both Football Manager 2005 (FM2005) and Championship Manager 5 were slated for an original release date of October or November 2004. However, the release date of Championship Manager 5 was put back by Eidos to March 2005, due to the extent of work discovered in coding the game from scratch. This allowed FM2005 a clear run to establish itself ahead of the release of CM5.

On release, the game was unfortunately a major disappointment: ridden with bugs, mistakes and crucially for some, lacking in one or two features of the previous iteration of CM. Even though BGS published a downloadable patch on the day of release many users felt that CM5 was unplayable. Key problems included difficulties transferring players (either in or out of a club) and a very unrealistic match engine. Perhaps one of the biggest issues discovered by people purchasing CM5 was the fact that the player database was not reliable to any extent. The database had been for many fans of the series, the biggest strength of the CM brand. BGS had employed a professional firm to create much of the player database but in the end many fans had to provide BGS with updated player information including basic things like which club they actually play for!

Other issues also arose shortly after CM5 was released. Features like multiplayer, "hotseat" games (allowing people to play together on one computer), although never stated as being developed for CM5, disappointed some by its abscence when the game arrived. Other small things like player histories were not in evidence in the final product either.

A release on the Macintosh platform was subsequently cancelled, again giving headway to the rival FM2005 which is available for Mac.

At time of writing, a 2nd downloadable patch is available that does contain significant improvements. It is available for download or by phoning Eidos support. Work meanwhile continues to address issues still remaining within the game, especially in regard to the simulation of matches. BGS Senior Programmer, Steve Screech, regularly posts on the Championship Manager Forums detailing his progress. There is no word on whether a third patch will actually be released though at this stage. In contrast, SI Games have already announced the release of FM2006 (scheduled for October 2005) which promises to add new features to the game.

A playable demo containing Patch 2 information can be found here: CM5 Demo (

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