Bridgepoint, a private equity firm based in London, has approached the Football Association (FA) about the purchase of a large stake in the Women’s Super League (WSL).
Bridgepoint, who are already well known within the sporting world as owners of the rights to present the MotoGP series, has put forward an offer that would see the WSL part-owned by financial investors, in a move not too uncommon across European football at present.
The proposal made to the FA is to purchase a large minority stake in a new company that would then own the WSL’s commercial rights. It is understood that the 12 clubs currently competing in the WSL, including the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, have been informed of the proposal by Bridgepoint. The deal would see the FA and the member clubs own stakes in the organisation, although conversations are in the 'very preliminary stage'.
To run the WSL, it costs the FA around £7 million per year and with the governing body set to lose around £300 million due to the Covid-19 pandemic according to Telegraph Sport, they may consider the Bridgepoint offer even more as a budget reduction is set to take place over the next four years but won’t affect the women’s game.
The offer from Bridgepoint has also forced a two-way tussle between them and the Premier League who have long been interested in taking over the WSL. Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters told MPs that they would continue to discuss the possibility of controlling 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.
In the last week, The Guardian claimed that WSL clubs opposed the league being taken over by the Premier League as they feared that it would not receive the same level of attention as its counterpart.
At the start of last season, Barclays took over the title sponsorship, which became the biggest investment in women’s sport from a brand. The three-year deal was reportedly worth around £10 million, offering prize money to the league for the first time.
To increase both interest and money in the WSL, the FA are in the process of trying to monetise TV rights with a mixture of pay-per-view games and free-to-air.
Author: Jake Wilkin