Head of Women's Football Research

Tina Keech

“I tell people what I do, and some are like Oh, right, okay. Maybe the job sounds straightforward, but I don’t think they understand just how much work goes into a role like this. It literally did not exist before.”

When Tina Keech heard that Sports Interactive were looking to bring the women’s game into Football Manager, her first response was a healthy amount of scepticism. 

“If we were going to do something like this,” she says, “we had to really mean it. I was like, Are you really serious? Do you mean it? We can’t do this half-heartedly. It had to be for real.”

Tina Keech

If there’s one word you can use to describe Tina, she says, it’s persistent. “I knew that the potential for new players, and new audiences, would be massive when introducing women’s football into a game as iconic as this. And once I was on that road, I knew there was no going back. The whole studio was behind me, totally supporting this journey, but I knew I had to be persistent. To be honest, so much of my job became pushing people to stay on track without pissing them off.” 

Sports Interactive hadn’t had to create a player database from scratch in decades. What Tina was doing often seemed like an insurmountable task. But with her immediately energising combination of excitement and candour, at times it seemed like she was going to have to drag things forward through sheer power of personality. 

The importance of what they were working on was never lost on her. Football had been ever present in Tina’s life: her background saw her playing and coaching at a high level before working as a football researcher and analyst in the betting industry, so she knew what was at stake.

“I always wanted to know what was going on,” she says. “I was very vocal about it: I wanted us to keep moving forward, forward, forward. But I remember Miles said to me, If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right. And that began to really stay with me. We couldn’t rush what we were doing. I was so excited to build this bloody thing, but I had to learn patience. I had to adapt.”

Seeing the women's game appear in other videos games has inspired Tina's approach and tenacity.

“The women’s game just isn’t like the men’s game,” she says. “That’s just the truth. Like, even down to the way the men’s database listed height and weight of players. I refused to do that. Women’s weight fluctuates massively from person to person, and throughout the month, so I couldn’t allow a female player to be judged as ‘overweight’ when they’re not. It’s been a learning curve for the whole studio. I made the coders question a lot of things that were in the men’s database, as well. I had them thinking, Why do we do it like this? Do we really need to do that?”

Tina Keech

A mother of two girls – aged six and ten – Tina’s personal investment in her role pushed her already high levels of passion into another realm. Working for a title like Football Manager, a game she played all the way through her life, through school and university, through periods of unemployment and pregnancy, and now getting to create something for the new generation? It means more than people can ever know.

“When FM25 finally comes out, I think I might cry,” she says, finally. “It’s been such hard work and for such a long time–– god, I’m welling up now just thinking about it. But knowing this game is going to come out, and that it’s never been there before, and what that will mean to people… I can’t wait for my girls to play it. I wish I was a young girl discovering this game again, experiencing it with fresh eyes, and getting to see myself in a video game playing the sport I love.”