July 20 – The Women’s Super League (WSL) in England, which unlike its top tier male counterparts, was not given the opportunity to complete its season when the coronavirus struck, could be find new funding support in the shape of private equity money.
London venture capitalists Bridgepoint have reportedly approached the FA with an offer to buy a significant stake in a company that would control the league’s rights.
No figure has been given for the valuation but clubs are believed to have been spoken and, if the Bridgepoint proposal progressed, would be given a shareholding in the company alongside the FA. Bridgepoint would likely be the largest shareholder but still in the minority under the proposed structure.
The move comes at a crucial time for the development of the WSL which signed Barclays as a title sponsor before the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but has rapidly increased its profile subsequent to the England team’s run to the semi-finals. The FA, which is struggling with losses approaching £300 million, chose not to fund a restart of the women’s professional game this season.
In 2018 the FA revamped the women’s professional game into two tiers with a new set of club licensing rules designed to increase and improve the group of professional players. It also saw the entry into the leagues
Manchester United officially crossed the gender divide and launched a women’s team that played for the first time in the club’s name and in its club colours in the second tier. Man Utd won promotion in the inaugural 2018-19 season joining fellow Premier League giants Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in the 12-team league for the 2019-20 season.
There has been some discussion that the Premier League would take over the WSL, including its commercial function, though there was some opposition from WSL clubs that they would be a second class partner in any arrangement. Premier League CEO Richard Masters said: “We decided collectively – that is the Premier League and the FA together and the WSL and Women’s Championship Board – that now was not the right time, but we will return to that topic at some point in the near future.”
He may need to return to it quickly if venture capital money is coming into the women’s game. Bridgepoint are no strangers to investing in sports having in 2006 taken control of Dorna, which is MotoGP’s rights-holder.
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