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Lewes set for investment as Mercury 13 announces plans for global women’s multi-club group

Group's founder Victoire Cogevina Reynal says model allows clubs to grow in a “much more efficient way”.

24 August 2023 Josh Sim

Lewes FC

  • US$100m allocated to acquiring controlling stakes in women’s clubs based in Europe and Latin America
  • Group backed by former players and executives who previously worked at Fifa and StatsPerform
  • Cogevina Reynal believes the WSL will surpass the NWSL as the strongest league in women’s soccer

Mercury 13 founder Victoire Cogevina Reynal believes a multi-club ownership model “works perfectly” for women’s soccer as the group enters an exclusivity negotiation period to invest in English second-tier club Lewes.

The company has confirmed plans to acquire controlling stakes in women’s soccer clubs in Europe and Latin America, with the intention of investing US$100 million over the next few years. Under the principle that women’s soccer fans want a different experience, Mercury 13 plans to focus on investing in teams with high promotion and marketing potential, while also aiming to bring parity in the data around the women’s game.

The ambitious investment group is made up of executives with deep experience in soccer, including Nancy Hensley, the former chief product and marketing officer at StatsPerform, former Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Arianna Criscione, former England international Eniola Aluko and former Fifa chief innovation officer Luis Vicente.

The company’s advisory board also includes Michael Broughton, the co-founder of Sports Innovation Partners, former Galatasaray chief executive Ebru Koksal and Brigit Lee, the head of business development and partnerships for Europe at PlayStation.

Mercury 13 plans to make its first investment in Lewes, with negotiations for top-tier clubs in Spain and Italy also at an advanced stage. Speaking to SportsPro, Cogevina Reynal said the English club’s strong stance on equality, made them a “very easy fit”. She also cited the strength of the Women’s Super League (WSL) as holding strong appeal, with Cogevina Reynal thinking English soccer’s top flight will surpass the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US as the “strongest” women’s soccer property in the world over next couple of years.

“We know that [Lewes are] in the Championship with a good chance of ascending into the WSL,” she said. “That’s exciting, because we can come in and really fuel that growth, and help them accelerate all of what they need.

“The timing is really perfect. I think one of the reasons why Lewes is keen to have the negotiations progress, is because they can see all the value that we can add. And not only thinking about this from a financial or business standpoint, but also making sure that we respect the legacy, that we understand that this club has existed for over a century, that is very much rooted in the community, and how we can take all of that and make it a million times better.”

The group will next target teams in Argentina and Uruguay, as it expands its portfolio out to Latin America. It however does not have plans to invest in the US as of now, due to there being numerous high-potential opportunities elsewhere. Criscione also told SportsPro the country’s single league structure would have provided fewer ways to grow teams and the wider portfolio, while Hensley noted that the recently concluded Women’s World Cup showed the sport’s growth potential through the increasingly diverse talent pool across the world.

According to Cogevina Reynal, the multi-club ownership model will allow Mercury 13 to grow each team more efficiently. Noting the growing commercial side of women’s soccer, she said the grouping of clubs would allow for better sponsorship deals, with Hensley adding the creation of a shared services model would allow for quicker innovation and more interesting commercial opportunities.

However, Cogevina Reynal stated no single club would be considered a priority over others in the group. This has been seen through numerous multi-club models employed in the men’s game, with City Football Group (CFG) for example making Manchester City the figurehead of its collective.

“Here, we’re all starting from the same starting line, which I think makes it all more exciting,” she adds. “With time, there’s going to be clubs that become bigger than others, but that’s going to depend a lot on the development of the league, which is going to affect quite a lot of the work that we’re going to do.

“There’s a lot of different aspects of it that that cannot be predicted, because it’s just the nature of the game. But we’re definitely not choosing one club and focusing all of it there. On the men’s side of things, they [most models] have one club and then all the rest of the clubs become feeder clubs into the top one, so fans of the feeder clubs feel defeated. We need to make sure that we learn and don’t repeat that mistake.”

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