Spirit and Lyon owners form women’s soccer org

Michele Kang, owner of National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) side Washington Spirit, has agreed a deal with the owners of Olympique Lyonnais Féminin to create a global women’s football organization encompassing the two teams.

The deal will see Kang become majority owner and CEO of the company, the first-ever woman-owned and led multi-club football group, a little more than a year after she acquired the Spirit in a reported record $35 million deal.

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The deal involves OL Groupe contributing its women’s team and Kang offering her majority share of the Spirit to the new venture, the two parties said on Tuesday.

“This deal represents a major step forward in the history of women’s professional football,” Kang said in a statement.

“It brings together the unparalleled tradition of the 8-time Champions League winning OL Féminin and the dynamism of the 2021 NWSL Champion Spirit to usher our sport into a new era.”

The platform will look to acquire additional clubs in other countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

OL Groupe has begun the process of selling its NWSL side OL Reign to avoid potential conflict, months after a misconduct scandal forced another NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, to hit the market.

“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,” said OL Groupe CEO and Chairman John Textor.

The two sides said each club will retain their distinct identity, with an eye toward upgrading existing infrastructure and growing their respective fan bases.

Investments in resources for performance science and technology, data analytics and staff development would be shared across the teams.

“The combination represents hope, determination, and the necessary business steps towards shaping the future of women’s football,” said Kang.

The all-stock deal comes at a pivotal time for the women’s sport, with the two sides calling it “a clear sign that the investment and resources in women’s football are taking a major step towards equality with men’s teams.”

The NWSL said earlier this year that it would bring back the Utah Royals and add an expansion team to the Bay Area in 2024. Commissioner Jessica Berman said she expects to add another two teams for the 2026 season.

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