By Paul Nicholson
July 22 – Los Angeles is to get its first professional women’s team with a consortium led by Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman having been awarded a franchise by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
The predominantly women-founded consortium will be the NWSL’s 11th team and will start play in 2022. With the corporate entity established as WFC LA, Inc, the team has yet to confirm its name or the venue it will play at, though the group is calling itself ‘Angel City’.
It is the all-star group of investors that have come together that could really prove to be the game-changer, not just for women’s club football in LA but in boosting the profile of the NWSL.
The founder group includes technology venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian who led the investment through his firm Initialized Capital.
Other board names include Serena Williams and daughter, actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria, late night talk show host Lilly Singh, as well as 12 former US Women’s National Team players, including World Cup winners Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach.
“I’m looking at this as a business decision. Yes, I believe there are a lot of good social reasons for this to be a successful enterprise, but this is first and foremost a capitalist one,” Ohanian told Variety (Ohanian is married to Serena Williams). “This is where esports was five years ago, except these teams are far more marketable; the athletes are far more popular and have already transcended the sport and culture. And while I am all for [what] this represents – a generation of athletes who should get paid what they’re worth, who should get treated fairly and equally – I also know this is tracking in the right direction. The free market is actually going to show that this has been undervalued for way too long by far too many people.”
Following the US win at the France 2019 World Cup, the NWSL has seen its profile rise domestically and internationally. The league’s 2019 average attendance was up 21.8% over 2018 and 71.8% over its inaugural 2013 season.
“The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with. We’ve long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird.
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