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Report: Women’s Super League receives Bridgepoint investment interest

Private equity firm seeks minority stake in new company controlling league’s commercial rights.

20 July 2020 Sam Carp

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  • Proposal would see FA and WSL clubs also own stakes in new company
  • WSL costs FA reported UK£7m a year to run
  • Bridgepoint also owns MotoGP commercial rights holder Dorna Sports
  • Premier League long linked with takeover of top-flight women’s league

Private equity firm Bridgepoint has approached English soccer’s Football Association (FA) about purchasing a ‘large minority stake’ in the Women’s Super League (WSL), according to Sky News.

The British news outlet reports that London-based Bridgepoint has made a proposal to buy a significant minority share in a new company that would own the top-flight women’s soccer league’s commercial rights.

Sky said that the WSL’s 12 clubs, who have reportedly been briefed on Bridgepoint’s proposal, would also own stakes in the new company alongside the FA. Talks are at a ‘very preliminary stage’, the report added.

The WSL is the latest sports league to be linked with private equity investment during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already forced the FA to cut 124 jobs in an attempt to protect itself against a reported projected deficit of UK£300 million (US$374 million) over the next four years.

The FA is in the process of trying to monetise the domestic rights to the WSL for the first time after appointing the Women’s Sports Group agency to support the sales process for the next cycle, which starts from the 2021/22 season.

Offloading a stake in the WSL would also go some way towards alleviating some of the FA’s financial commitment to the women’s competition, which according to the Telegraph costs the national governing body UK£7 million (US$8.7 million) to run each year.

Bridgepoint, which owns MotoGP commercial rights holder Dorna Sports, is likely to face competition from the men’s top-flight Premier League, which has long been linked with a takeover of its female equivalent.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said on 30th June during a UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee evidence session that assuming responsibility for the WSL is something he “would like to do” at some point in the near future, but added that “now wasn’t the right time”.

“We obviously want the women’s game to be successful, which is why we are helping them and why we have engaged in those discussions with the FA about assuming responsibility for it,” Masters said.

“From a personal perspective, I think it is something I would like to do in the future for this organisation – not being just responsible for the top of the pyramid in terms of the men’s game but also the women’s game.”

Despite the Premier League’s interest, the Guardian reported last week that the majority of WSL clubs would prefer the division to be run independently rather than taken over by the men’s competition.

The UK newspaper said there is a fear among the WSL clubs that the women’s competition would play ‘second fiddle’ to the Premier League, and a belief that independent leadership would result in a more holistic approach towards the growth of the women’s game.

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