- Kang takes 52% stake in Lyon’s women’s team and OL Groupe to hold remaining 48%
- OL Groupe to sell NWSL’s OL Reign to avoid conflict of interest
- Deal expected to close at end of June 2023
Washington Spirit owner Michele Kang has become the majority owner of French top-flight outfit Olympique Lyonnais Féminin to create a new women-led multi-club soccer organisation.
The agreement brings together Eagle Football Holdings, the majority owner of men’s French club Lyon, OL Groupe, owner of the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) OL Reign, and Kang (pictured above), who acquired the Spirit in February 2022.
Lyon’s women’s team, who have won eight Uefa Women’s Champions League titles and are regarded as one of the sport’s top clubs, were previously controlled by John Textor’s Eagle Football Holdings following the investment vehicle’s Lyon takeover last December. Textor serves as chief executive and chairman of OL Groupe.
Kang, who is a minority shareholder in Eagle Football Holdings, will hold a 52 per cent stake in Lyon Féminin, which has been valued at €50 million (US$54.1 million). OL Groupe will, for now, hold the remaining 48 per cent.
Kang has been named majority owner and chief executive of the newly formed company, which will look to acquire additional teams in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Kang is also joining OL Groupe’s board of directors.
Each club under the company’s umbrella will retain its own established identity. The new group plans to invest strategically to upgrade infrastructure and grow the fanbase for its teams. Additionally, ‘significant resources’ will be allocated to develop capabilities that will be shared across all clubs, such as performance science and technology, data analytics, global scouting and sporting staff development.
The deal, which is expected to close at the end of June, is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, such as the approval by the NWSL and various third-party approvals in France.
OL Groupe has confirmed it is selling the Reign in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest with the NWSL regarding Kang’s ownership of the Spirit and Lyon Féminin.
“This deal represents a major step forward in the history of women’s professional football,” said Kang.
“It brings together the unparalleled tradition of the eight-time Champions League winning OL Féminin and the dynamism of the 2021 NWSL Champion Spirit to usher our sport into a new era.
“The complete alignment and support for this vision among the OL Groupe board and key principals including Jean-Michel Aulas, John Textor and myself is very powerful. It is a great honor to take stewardship of OL Féminin and lead this unprecedented effort on behalf of the fans, players and staff of both teams.”
Textor added: “Over the past 20 years, OL Groupe has played an important role in growing the game of women’s football. Today the sport’s popularity is exploding in Europe, the US, and around the globe.
“With a tradition of winning that is unmatched in the world of women’s football, OL Féminin has a unique opportunity in this growing market to build the Olympique Lyonnais global brand for the benefit of OL Groupe and for our remarkable athletes.
“Today’s agreement with Michele creates the ideal vehicle to accomplish that objective, securing an exciting future for OL Féminin.”
Multi-club ownership is now commonplace in soccer – Uefa identified over 180 teams around the world that were part of such a structure by the end of 2022. However, a group exclusively focused on acquiring women’s sides is an untested proposition.
Kang believes her new company will help its existing and future clubs develop by sharing best practices. She also sees the move as a vital step towards equality with men’s teams and hopes it inspires more investment in the women’s game. The Washington Post adds that the company could have three to four clubs on its books by the end of the year.
The vision here is for a global women’s soccer network. As the female game continues to enjoy exponential growth, which will be fuelled by this summer’s 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, Kang and her partners want to be a leading light as that interest further filters into domestic leagues and clubs.