The Story of champman0102.co.uk
I have written a back story to the website before which was last updated in 2012. It felt that the time had come to look back at the history of the website once again to explain to you where it all began and how we have managed to remain an active community today, some 11 years since champman0102.co.uk was first born.
Where better to start than on the 12th October in 2001? This of course, is a crucial period in our history for it is the date that Eidos and SI Games put together the game that we have come to love as 'Championship Manager Season 2001/2002'. It was such a popular release amongst the public that SI Games continued to release official patches and data updates for the game for the following two years.
After SI Games ceased to release official downloads for the game, one man in particular took it upon himself to update the game via the official editor which came with the game itself. That man would then share his database with the public on a website called http://www.football-manager-addicts.tk which sadly, no longer exists. That mans name was Alex Sawczuk.
The Alex Sawczuk data updates were incredibly popular but after a couple of years, his motivation to update the game began to fade away and he was starting to frequent the website less and less. By this time, the fan base for CM 01/02 had been moved on to thedugout.net where an individual called Helvete had joined Alex Sawczuk in keeping the release of data updates going. In fact, you can still see the very first thread on the dugout where Helvete announced the BETA release of an update which was released in September 2005. Sadly, Alex Sawczuk eventually disappeared from thedugout and as far as I am aware, hasn't been seen since. By this time, another individual came on board to assist Helvete with the updating of the database and his name was SthlmDevil.
2005 proved to be a big year for Championship Manager 2001/2002. Not only were Helvete and SthlmDevil working hard on providing data updates to the public on the dugout but on the 14th September, we witnessed the birth of a patch that would go on to change the game forever. That was when Tapani announced himself to the public with his very first patch! In fact, you can see myself (having joined the website by now as MightyPotters) as one of those responding excitedly and claiming Tapani to be a genius!
It was also around this time that due to time constraints and Helvete losing a bit of motivation to update the game, SthlmDevil proposed an idea of forming a team of 'Head Researchers' and 'Helpers' who would work together to create data updates. That went down quite well with the public and another member who had helped out heavily with the posting of transfers for the data update, Scooterfan, actually suggested the idea of creating a website dedicated to the purpose of updating the game. That idea was the catalyst for the birth of champman0102.co.uk as I responded to the idea by volunteering to create a free forum which was originally hosted using phpBB. Unfortunately, these posts discussing the birth of our home seem to have been deleted from thedugout which is a huge shame!
The exact date of our birth was 8th October 2005. The original free forum proved to be too limited for our needs and it was at this time that I contacted a fellow Stoke fan who was registered as Webby and has since died, may he Rest in Peace. Webby proved to be a huge help for me and offered a lot of advice to get the website started and actually created our first home on his own server under the name of www.champman0102.co.uk. You can see an early example of our website which used phpBB here.
Working with SthlmDevil, his idea of 'Head Researchers' and 'Helpers' really took off on the website. We were able to appoint a 'HR' for each nation to update the database himself while the 'Helpers' were to post transfers and information for the 'HR' in their own country sub-forum. Before long, we were able to announce ourselves as a new website and had released our first BETA update by December.
After a few months of teething issues, we soon found our feet at our new home and with the slogan of ‘Keeping the Game Alive’, the CM 01/02 Update Team was born. Feedback from the BETA update had been positive and we soon announced another BETA update in January 2006.
It was also around this time that I first started to try and build a website that would evolve around the forums itself. You can see some very early stages of my poor web skills (or were they OK back in 2006?!) here:
As the site began to grow (incorporating requests to include forums dedicated to tutorials, menubars and stories), I began to add certain modifications to the forums such as the ability to have sub-forums and a shoutbox for the ever-expanding community which we still use today. Towards the end of the year, I soon learnt that phpBB really wasn't serving our needs as several attempts to modify the website resulted in the website being corrupted, leading to the site being taken offline for a spell!
After some thought, I soon made the decision to move away from using phpBB as a platform for our website which had been a free service. Instead, we were going to pay for a vBulletin licence which is actually the forum software that we still use today. These forums gave the place a much, more professional feel to it and were capable of providing the many features that the community demanded today. It took some time to settle into the new website, having been so used to the 'SubBlack' feel of phpBB but before long, we were striving once again.
It was also around this time that activity had started to decline from SthlmDevil. Things changed behind the scenes with regards to the CM 01/02 Update Team as SthlmDevil ultimately left us and a new member came on board called Blue Demon. It was Blue Demon who was a key figure in the history of CM 01/02 Update as we changed from the 'Head Researchers' and 'Helpers' system to 'Updaters' and 'Scouts' which we still use today, although 'Updaters' are tended to be known as 'Managers' while those who formed the board of the update team are known as 'Directors'. It was also through Blue Demon’s ideas that the team expanded to become much more globally focused and there was also a huge focus on the statistical side of the database. That saw the data updates appreciated even more than before, some 6 years after the game had first been released!
In February 2008, we were the victims of an attack which resulted in the database being corrupted and all was lost from champman0102.co.uk. The exact cause or identity of the attack is still unknown to this day. Thankfully, the community came together to restore the place as it was before and we worked together quickly to bring the place back up and running very quickly as several members shared their previously downloaded files to get our downloads area back on track.
In June 2009, the forums began to use too much traffic on the server that we were using at the time. I received several large bills from the web hosts and decided that after four years of personally funding the existence of the website, I could no longer afford to do this alone. As a result, a VIP system was brought into affect to the forums. This meant that several aspects of the forums were made private and accessible by members who had donated to the website. These included access to the shoutbox, the arcade, the virtual bookies and other interactive features. This was a move that could have gone wrong but thankfully, the members showed just as much interest in ‘Keeping the Game Alive’ as I had done in the previous four years and it has since been a huge success, meaning that we were a self-funding website. This introduction has led to the move to a more expensive server which can handle the traffic that we possess and we have since had no problems whatsoever!
The year 2009 was also a huge year for the game itself. This was the year that I entered a partnership with Eidos which saw 'Championship Manager Season 2001/2002' become available as a free download. It was a huge landmark for champman0102.co.uk as Eidos publicly made the game available for free which directed a lot of traffic to our website while also advertising for their own game, Championship Manager 2010.
As we approached the year 2010 and nearing the 5th birthday of the forums, the forums were rocked by the news that the CM 01/02 Update Team would be splitting into two separate teams. The reason for the split was that several members were beginning to disagree about the direction in which the updates were going. Again, this could have threatened the future of the forums but once again, the community strove to ‘Keep the Game Alive’ and those on the CM 01/02 Update Team agreed to disagree and simply formed two CM 01/02 Update Teams with their own ideas of how the database should be handled.
One of the teams would be known as the 'SIM Team' and the other would be known as the 'ODB-Style Team'. Although both teams continue to use the Scouting forums for updating transfers and related information, the main difference between the two is that they rate players differently in terms of assigning values to attributes and abilities of players in the database. This was at a time where there was a huge belief within the 'SIM Team' that the 'CA16' attribute system had a huge effect on how the game worked.
While there were disagreements at times between the two 'CM 01/02 Update Teams', they largely worked together in harmony for the best part of two years. However, it was clear to see that interest was fading and having two different data updates was having a negative effect on the general public who simply didn't know which data update to use for themselves. March 2012 saw the release of the final 'SIM Team' data update and the two teams merged back together as one (led by Dermotron, Scooterfan, Bulk, Patinoz and Beezer,Celtic1967) although there would now be less focus on the simulation side of the game. In September, the merged once again 'CM 01/02 Update Team' released their hugely anticipated 'September 2012 Data Update' which went on to be downloaded over 35,000 times.
2012 was also a landmark for me personally as I decided that I could no longer look after the website and put it on the market for sale. At the time, I had lost my own motivation to keep the website updated and had recently taken on a mortgage and was struggling financially. There were certainly plenty of interest in taking it over though so I had no worries about the future of the website and before long, the reins had been passed on to WelshRed as the new 'Chairman' of champman0102.co.uk.
The September 2012 Data Update release had been a huge success and it proved to be a great footballing year for the 'CM 01/02 Update Team' as they followed it up with the 'March 2013 Data Update' which was downloaded over 55,000 times which was a record breaking statistic that has not been matched ever since. This was indeed the 'CM 01/02 Update Team' at the peak of their powers with plenty of interest in helping the team and 'Keeping the Game Alive'.
Meanwhile, WelshRed had been a hugely enthusiastic individual when taking over the control of the website. Unfortunately though, WelshRed was finding it difficult to commit the time that I had put into the website in order to keep all aspects of it, including the VIP features, alive. I was still a frequent visitor despite selling it on but I was concerned that the lack of time would have a detrimental effect. In April 2013, I surprisingly announced that I was back in charge once again having purchased the website from WelshRed.
An astonishing 14 years after the release of the game, champman0102.co.uk was still going strong. Admittedly, we do not get the high level of visitors that we'd receive 4 or 5 years ago but we were still attracting at least 100 registered members a day and always reached our donation target to keep the website self-sustainable. Things did appear to be a bit quiet at the start of the year which led to some concern over the future of the website but two things happened that breathed life into champman0102.co.uk once again.
The first was the surprise return of Tapani with a new patch. It'd been almost three years since we'd witnessed the presence of Tapani who was well known for having spells away from the site before coming back again. Those three years was the longest period that Tapani had been AWOL though and so it was a huge surprise to not just see Tapani back on the website but to follow it up with the release of two patches through 2015. It was certainly a major breakthrough for the game as Tapani had unearthed yet more features for the game which certainly makes the gameplay so much better for a game that was now 14 years old.
The other event was behind not so well known but it has certainly made a difference behind the scenes. For so many years, the 'CM 01/02 Update Team' had been disheartened by some absolutely heartless individuals who had blatantly downloaded their Data Updates, which are available for free, and then gone on to sell them as their own work on eBay. For quite some time, we'd had difficulty monitoring these type of people and could only go as far as reporting their items to eBay who'd take down the listings but the individuals always re-listed their items later on in the future. It'd gotten so bad that the CM 01/02 Update Team were seriously considering retiring from releasing Data Updates or at least, starting to charge for the Data Updates themselves. However, there were steps put into place for a team to create their own eBay account on behalf of the website and list their own Data Updates for a price that undersells those heartless individuals who had been profiting from the hard work that the CM 01/02 Update Team had done. This is a process that has been going on for a year now at the time of writing and it has been a huge success, selling at least 100 copies of the game every month and also driving new members to the website at the same time.
I suspect that these two events contributed largely to just over 38,000 downloads for what is the latest data update, released in October 2015 and is the 5th highest downloaded data update even though the game is 14 years old!
2016 will mark the 15th anniversary of Championship Manager Season 2001/2002. It's now been 11 years since the website itself was born and I can honestly say that I didn't expect us to be here today. It was only a short-term project and a bit of fun to be had at the time in 2005 and 11 years on, I wouldn't change it for the world. Where would we be today without champman0102.co.uk and all the hundreds upon thousands of members who have come and gone but still 'Kept the Game Alive' in their own way?
I'll end this recap of our history with a very simple message.
Thank you to every single one of you that has registered and joined us in our journey over the years