In Off The Post

Is there a future for Football PBM Games?

I’ve been asking this question on and off now for over 10 years. As designer and owner of the original version of Soccer Supremos I have many fond memories of running the hundreds of leagues we had back in the late 80s and early 90s.

It’s hard to believe 30+ years has gone by so quickly and I’ve been thinking about it more and more. Due to my natural attachment to Soccer Supremos and therefore the play-by-mail gaming era in general, it is hard to answer the question in a truly unbiased fashion.

However, my optimism has only grown over the past few years. I think this has largely been down to the growing number of web-based football management games now available in various flavours. OK, so these are not 100% faithfully play-by-mail, but they do appear to contain large elements of what I considered the important components of PBM back in the day.

I haven’t done an in-depth analysis of these web-based football management games, maybe I will at some point and share my findings and thoughts here.

When I finally made the decision to seriously attempt to bring back Soccer Supremos, back in late 2022, I had not actually thought about the success or interest the game may or may not generate. At that time, being a computer programmer at heart, I had an urge to put my hand to writing a ‘game engine’ again. That thought is still very much with me, along with the excitement.

Since then, besides attempting to satisfy my own geek-like needs, I have been pondering of the title of this blog more and more. I feel there is a future for sure, but in what form?

I believe there are a handful of football management PBM games out there still running (some have been running for over 20 years) with a faithful player-base. I personally haven’t experienced these games myself, but as time goes by I will likely analyze and learn from them. After all most football management games follow a very similar format.

While I would be happy to run Soccer Supremos for a few hundred managers, I am wondering if there would be enough interest in attracting not just the oldies from back in the 90s, but also fresh blood from managers who play the web-based games.

I’m thinking…or rather I am hoping the future and success of Soccer Supremos could lie somewhere in-between? I don’t know, this is what I am going to try and find out and would very much like to hear what others have to say on this topic.

Soccer Supremos could be re-written to stay 99% faithful to the original. It could drop its PBM history totally and aim for the web-based market. Or as I said maybe find a blend of the two? I don’t think I will be able to please everyone whatever route the game takes, but I want to be guided by the managers signing up to help me with the redesign and launch.

For Soccer Supremos to really have a decent future it needs to be generating enough revenue to justify the efforts that are currently going into making this a reality. I won’t be able to keep this level of involvement and commitment if the game attracts just a handful of managers. Ideally, if the revenue were to reach a level where I can retire early from my day job and live off Soccer Supremos then I’ll be able to dedicated myself fulltime to feature enhancements and running the game. This would only strengthen the chances of long-term success and thus along the way really prove that Soccer Supremos does have a second-life.

However, that doesn’t mean PBM has a future. It depends on how faithful the redesign is to PBM.

So, I believe there are 3 major areas to analyze over the coming months, which will help shape the design direction of Soccer Supremos. I every much hope all managers will help and guide me in making the right decisions:

Area 1: Current Football PBM Games

A thorough analyze of the feature-sets that are common across all of them. I will also be polling you guys to learn what you consider important to keep from the PBM era. Part of this analyze will involve trying to estimate the total manager-base out there in this small gaming sector (how many? 300? More?).

Area 2: Web-based Football Games

A similar analyze of these games also needs to be done. From the small amount of time I have spent looking at this games, so far they appear more varied than the PBM games. These games are going to be harder to understand and grasp, but it will be important to do so, if I am to make the right decisions. The manager-base out there seems to be well over 100,000, maybe even in the millions.

Area 3: PBM, Web-based or Blend

This is where I’ll need to take all the findings from area 1 and 2 and start to make sense of it. Maybe if the right components of the blend still maintains the key elements of what the large majority of you consider still being faithful to PBM then that could be the way to go? I’ll wait for the findings, but I suspect the manager-base of PBM is low-ish and not really growing at any reasonable pace.

Anyway, let me know what your thoughts are and over the next few months I think I’ll dig deeper in these 3 areas and start the conversations going. I don’t have the answers myself, so I will very much be looking to you guys to help.


  1. I played Soccer Supremos in the early 90’s during the golden era of PBM. I’ve been following GAD games over the past few years and always hoped to see a comeback of this fantastic game. I have been playing another PBM since 2015 and it is as close as you can get to Soccer Supremos of old. Great to see that 2024 will see a return for this classic game from yester year!
    I honestly do believe there is a market for this. I’m unfamiliar with online only games myself, but I could see the attraction for it, in this ‘Instant’ world of everything. Instant results have certain appeal but I love the anticipation of the email dropping with a bundle of surprises and challenges to wet the appetite for footie management.
    There is something magical about receiving your results by email or indeed snail mail.
    Your inner kid still gets a similar kick to all those years ago!
    Most of us who played Soccer Supremos back in the day are now middle aged and would enjoy a bit of light entertainment from the wonderful make believe world of Football Management! Sshhh don’t tell some lads its not real life management 🙂
    It’s great to have something other than an electricity bill arrive in your inbox.
    I look forward to hearing other peoples views. I would struggle to guess how big the potential target market is for Soccer Supremos but I do know since Covid the market has grown substantially.

    1. I have fond memories of waiting for the postman, pretty much every morning, even when I was running Gad Games fulltime. At one point I must have been playing in 10+ games simultaneously. Not all of them Football-based, but never the less due to the number of games I was involved in, pretty much a day didn’t pass without receiving the results from at least one game.

      Unfortunately, especially as I am now based on South Africa, sending results out via the postal system just isn’t practical and as magical as it was, I don’t see that happening again with the relaunch of the game.

  2. Soccer Supremos was my very first addiction (as a teenager in the 90s), and I’m looking forward to playing in its triumphant return.
    To answer your question – a resounding YES, there is a future for Football PBM Games!

    1. That is great to hear. I’m really looking forward to getting this game going too. The numbers of interested players out there is growing and at this rate we’ll reach 100 ‘managers’ waiting for the playtest very soon!!

  3. I echo what DarrenO says about having something drop into your inbox. I think most people can accept that times have moved on from actual letters in the post, but I can imagine seeing “Soccer Supremos” (or such like) in my inbox and feeling excited.

    I have played two similarly structured games online. An F1 management game, based online, where you prepare everything in advance and the race just happens with no input. You can watch the race live or just log in later that evening/week and find out the results. The other was a NFL management game, based on an actual downloaded game, where you had to upload a file to a hub and then after the administrator had run the games, you could download/import your own file from the hub into your game and review results.

    Overall I would say online is definitely easier, but there was something special and reminiscent of Soccer Supremos about downloading the file and waiting to see your results.

    Perhaps a happy medium could be something based online where you can submit your turnsheets, but perhaps when the matches take place, managers get an email with their own match report and the website doesn’t update for another, say, 12 hours afterwards?

    That would give retain the excitement and relevance of getting your results ‘in the post’, but also an element of waiting to find out the other scores/table, a bit like waiting to get the evening football paper 🙂

    As for prospects – I definitely think there’s an audience for this type of game. Thousands play that F1 game, and lots of them like football. I’d definitely share it there. One thing to consider is the cost though – encouraging new players to sign up and try something out is a lot easier if it’s cheap/free.

    1. I’m leaning to have the game configurable. So I’ll be able to create a league for those that are interested in playing a system that is as close to the traditional PBM structure as possible where the ‘game’ remains paused for the entire week until all turnsheets have been processed and the results available both online and sent to each manager via email in PDF format.

      The younger players of today will likely want just online results and ‘some’ aspects of the game done in real-time. Like issuing training orders, home ground improvement, buy/sell players, etc. this game would be separate to the PBM version. Same rules etc but presented differently. Matches would be scheduled to play on certain days of the week and team selection can be modified throughout the week as often as a manager wants. So more real-time and online.

      I think we can design a game engine that can handle both types of play.

  4. Hello,
    Like many on here, waiting for the postie to arrive before school was a highlight and I loved being immersed in the game, we had around 11 of us at school playing Soccer Supremos and it was amazing to see us all get together and discuss our teams.
    I’d love to see the return of PBM and relive the old days of filling in the forms, trying to buy playing players from other teams.
    Good luck with getting this up and running and I can’t wait to be part of it all over again.