Thousands of us are flocking to virtual reality and gaming to help fill the void of no live football, with unprecedented numbers reaching for Football Manager during the lockdown.
Sports Interactive, creators of the football management sim, last week announced that the latest instalment of their terrifyingly addictive series would be free to anyone on Steam for a week, in a bid to help keep football fans sane as they go through the rigours of self-isolation - and boy, has it worked?!
In an extraordinary rise, 180,838 of us were taking charge of our favourite teams on Sunday evening, smashing the February record of 82,413. Following research conducted by OLBG and Fans of the EPL, to see just what football fans have been up to without matchday to look forward to, it seems many of us have taken to wheeling, dealing and devising tactical masterclasses from the comfort of our own homes.
Overall, there has been a 119 per cent rise in football gaming since the leagues were postponed earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Football Manager in particular has provided some real respite, with a 21 per cent increase in the game being played at any given time.
There is no football, rugby, F1, cricket, tennis, nothing; leaving sports fans climbing the walls without their regular fix of drama and action. With the National League having seen a temporary surge in attendances when the Premier League called time after the outbreak, it was clear sport fans were thirsty for live scenes wherever they could find them.
However, when non-league was also postponed, leading your team to virtual glory was seen as the next best thing it seems. Weekends would usually be designated for Soccer Saturday and Super Sunday down the pub or at home, but in its absence, nearly 200,000 reached for our laptops to plot domestic and European glory.
In the 30 days prior to March 23, Football Manager saw an average of 57,627 players online at any one time, that’s a 10,000 increase joining in with the usual hardcore virtual coaches.
The lockdown, enforced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government this week in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19, means Football Manager 2020 is the best performing edition of the game in the series’ nearly 30-year history.
It’s not just Football Manager which has saved football fans from boredom either. FIFA, too, for those who like to take better control of their players on the pitch rather than the touchline, has helped massively.
Leyton Orient organised their own giant tournament with clubs from all over Europe joining to take part, while Real Madrid playmaker Marco Asensio won La Liga's FIFA tournament for Los Blancos as players from Spain went head-to-head online.
It’s not the same as real, live football, we know, but it’s a brilliant alternative to see us through this challenging time.