Bristol City Football Club Supporters Trust

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Win a year's subscription to Football Manager Live!

The latest version of Sega's online Football Manager Live was unveiled on Thursday (January 8th) and users of the OTIB fans forum have the opportunity to win one year's subscription to the game (worth 72) absolutely free

Spend and win
All you have to do is make any online purchase via the many links and ads on OTIB (not just those at the top of each page, but also the many more in the shopping forum).  Then let us know you have done so by dropping a quick e-mail to otibshop@bristolcityst.org.uk and we'll put you in the virtual hat from which the lucky winner will be drawn.  Closing date is 31st January 2009.  Sega terms and condition of play apply.

Donate and win
You can also enter by making a donation to the OTIB running costs or the statue of John Atyeo (we will be advised automatically of all such donations, so you don't need to send us a separate e-mail).

So when you're about to make your next online purchase, stop and check whether you can reach your chosen retailer via OTIB and, if so, get yourself in the hat to win this great prize from the Supporters Trust and Sega.

Review
And if you're not sure what Football Manager Live is all about, check out this review below:

All football fans have, at one time or another, or always, fancied that they know more about managing a football team than the boss of the side they support. Arsenal fans imagine themselves more sophisticated than Arsene, Manchester United fans think that they have better motivational skills than Fergie, Liverpool fans can do better in the transfer market than Rafa, and Newcastle supporters believe that they can be more successful than anyone you care to mention. Of course, it's easy to pontificate from the comfort of your armchair, the safety of your seat, or the vantage of the terrace, but it's quite another challenge altogether to build a squad, coach the players, choose the tactics, and overcome the opposition.

Well now, even the least talented wannabe manager has the pportunity to put into practice what they preach in the stands. A new online game gives players the chance to create their own teams, buy "real" players, and play against other teams in real time. Football Manager Live (FML), by Sega, builds on the successful PC Football Manager game, but takes it up a level by making it interactive. Following a lengthy successful Beta test, FML went live in November 2008, with 14 gameworlds, each consisting of up to a thousand teams, split into a dozen or so Football Associations.

Each season lasts for one month, during which there is a week of pre-season fixtures to sort out your formation, tactics, and get to know your new players, followed by three weeks of quite intensive league action. Players can be signed in auctions, or managers can take on free agents or triallists, and just like Football Manager each player has ratings for various technical, mental, and physical attributes which determine their value.

However, unlike the other main online football manager game that I've played, Xpert Eleven, FML is much more than a squad-building and
matchday-game exercise. While both these aspects are important, the big deal here is the sense of community that is encouraged and facilitated by the game's designers, moderators, and players. Every time you play a game there's a facility to chat with the opposing manager, and I've had enjoyable and enlightening conversations with managers (and manageresses) from as far afield as Australia, Uruguay, Israel, Norway, Denmark, France, and even Wiltshire. There are also chatrooms, split into topic (market place, tactics, help, etc), online mail messages (official, personal, discussions), and news alerts regarding tournaments, transfers, protocol, and even various polls. These are open to all managers, and anyone is free to start a new
topic or respond to a current one. Obviously this sort of open system can be abused, but from what I've seen the moderators are on top of the game and are quick to stamp out anything that might ruin the game for other players.

As well as building your squad, you can develop your own skills as a manager in coaching, physiotherapy, tactics, scouting, and skills such as finance, man-management, and negotiation. To be fair, all this consists of is clicking a button and waiting for some time to elapse, but it's still another level of the game that takes it above the ordinary, and it gives managers scope to concentrate on different aspects of their game - some prefer to concentrate on scouting so that they eventually develop the ability to judge the potential of youngsters, while others like to concentrate on coaching so that individual players improve their ratings.

The on-screen look of the game during matches is similar to the PC version pre-2009, so you don't get the TV view but instead watch a lot of coloured dots moving around the screen. After a while this becomes so normal that when you attend games you automatically translate the players' movements into FML-style dots, and you soon learn to ignore the rather trite (and often inaccurate) commentary that scrolls along the bottom of the screen.

While this review might come across as overwhelmingly positive (and it can be a dangerously addictive game to play), FML is not without its negatives. For example, the game favours those who got hold of good players in the first hour or two of its launch, and therefore certain teams have a clear advantage. Considering the game costs an annual subscription of 72 this could well put off people from joining, although there is a new system being implemented that makes initial squad building more equitable.

The relentless nature of the game, and the fact that you have to play it almost full-time in order to keep up, can be a turn off. Although you don't have to be present to play games, as there is an AI (articificial intelligence) facility which allows the game to select teams and play games on your behalf. This has advantages and disadvantages: the AI can often react quicker and be cleverer in tactics than human managers, but on the other hand it won't do the unexpected, and if you know how to play against it AI can be weaker than human opposition. The AI option is triggered when people are challenged to games and either refuse the challenges or don't respond. However, this is also open to abuse, with some managers who prefer to play against AI deliberately refusing challenges, while others just stay online as long as possible in order to build up their 'right' to play AI opposition.

 The game has experienced rampant price inflation, which suits those players who got in early to sign good players, but which could eventually lead to a collapse of the transfer system. Each player is allocated a 'Market Value', based on his age, attributes, and potential. Unfortunately, a large number of players fail to grasp the concept of market value, and sell (and buy) players at prices far in excess of this nominal value, making it worthless as a useful guide to a player's price.

Unlike the standalone versions of Football Manager, there is little depth in management, and it is primarily a tactics game with various skillsets over which the manager has little control. In the standalone game, dealing with the press and the players individually is an important element of the game, but these aspects are almost completely absent from FML. While you do get messages of disgruntlement from players who don't get regular games, these are fairly easily dealt with, and there is little in the way of stress as a real manager might experience it. Some managers do get upset when they find that they can't win every game, but personally I like a challenge (well, I support Oxford and when I'm there I always stay in an Accor hotel).

However, despite the criticisms, FML is a complusive, hugely enjoyable, and also fairly frustrating game. Just like in real life teams can, for no
discernable reason, be inconsistent, beating far superior opposition one game and then succumbing to a team that is ranked much lower. Players can be brilliant one game and rubbish the next, and while finances are hugely important, there is nothing more satisfying than playing a team who think they're going to batter you, and then watching the other manager make tactical changes every few seconds to try and get something out of the match.

There is a feedback option, which I guess is supposed to work like in Ebay, but very few people use it and there seems to be little point in it. Anyway, in general, most of the people who play the game are good natured, helpful, and fun to play against. There are some people who try to cheat and who want to win above all else, but they are thankfully few and are far outweighed by those who appreciate that, above all, FML is just a game, and one that is worth the subscription.

The site: www.footballmanagerlive.com

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