CVC Capital Partners has become the latest suitor to approach the Football Association (FA) with interest in acquiring a stake in the Women's Super League (WSL) amid pressure on the finances of English football's governing body.
The interest from CVC comes after the FA was approached by Bridgepoint in July, who offered to purchase a new company who would manage the commercial rights of the WSL. This followed reports that the potential takeover by the Premier League was rejected by the majority of clubs in the league for the reason that they would like the women’s league to operate independently, away from the men's competition.
CVC is arguably the world's most prominent private equity investor in sports franchises, having generated billions in profits from its decade as the owner of Formula 1, where is sold the motor-racing franchise to Liberty Media in 2016 for US$8 billion.
Since, CVC has bought a big stake in Premiership Rugby's commercial operations and is in the process of finalising a deal to become a shareholder in the body which owns the commercial rights to the annual Six Nations rugby union championship. The London-based firm is also competing for a majority stake in Italy's top-flight, Serie A.
CVC's decision to compete with Bridgepoint for a stake in the WSL is intriguing, because of the history between them in connection with sports assets.
As part of its takeover of Formula 1, CVC was forced by the European Commission to sell the motorcycle racing series, and Bridgepoint's purchase of it quickly proved to be a huge financial success for it.
The interest from CVC definitely shows potential in English women’s football, as last week the league struck a deal with NBC Sports to broadcast the WSL in the US, Italy and Germany. The FA had previously said that "as the WSL continues to grow and thrive there is considerable commercial interest from a variety of sectors."
For the 2020/21 season, BT Sport is the main domestic rights-holder with their current deal expected to finish once the season has concluded. Consequently, the UK media rights for the 2021/22 season are currently for sale with the Women’s Sports Group as the consultant for the deal, appointed by the FA.
Author: James Parker