The Football Association has been approached by a leading London private equity firm over the possibility of buying a stake in the Women’s Super League.
Bridgepoint, who own the rights to stage the global MotoGP series, has tabled a proposal to buy a large minority stake in a new company that would own the WSL’s commercial rights, according to Sky News. Sky reported that the proposal would also see clubs own a stake in the company alongside the FA.
The governing body currently runs the WSL at a cost of around £7 million a year. Telegraph Sport understands that the organisation has predicted it will take a £300m financial hit in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and has planned to reduce its budget over the next four years, but the women’s professional game budget has been protected.
The Premier League has long been connected with a WSL takeover, with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters telling MPs last month that his organisation continued to hold talks about taking control of the WSL.
“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 said.
Barclays took over the title sponsorship of the WSL at the start of last season in a groundbreaking deal for women’s sport in the UK. The deal – announced in March 2019 – was the biggest-ever investment in UK women’s sport by a brand, with the three-year deal understood to be worth more than £10m and bringing prize money into the WSL for the first time. Previously, clubs were given grants by the FA for their participation in the league.
That deal came in the same month that Nike launched bespoke women’s kits for its countries and Lucozade, Gatorade and Budweiser announced deals with the Lionesses, Manchester City and Tottenham respectively.
The FA is also in the process of attempting to monetise the TV rights for the WSL for the first time, with the ideal deal understood to be a mix of pay-per-view and free-to-air games.
Bridgepoint has owned Dorna, MotoGP’s rights-holder, since 2006 and in that time has overseen growth in global audiences to 3 billion viewers annually.
An FA spokeswoman said: “As the WSL continues to grow and thrive, there is considerable commercial interest from a variety of sectors.”