OL Groupe, the parent company of French women’s soccer team Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, has agreed to take over National Women’s Soccer League team Reign FC in a $3.51m deal.
The agreement is expected to close next month, pending approval by the NWSL board of directors. Talks between the two parties began in November.
As part of the deal, OL Groupe will take an 89.5 percent stake in the team, which is based in Tacoma, Washington. Bill Predmore, Reign FC’s former investor-operator, will hold 7.5 percent of the share capital, while former National Basketball Association star Tony Parker will hold a three percent stake.
Olympique Lyonnais is a minority owner of French basketball club LDLC ASVEL, which is owned by Parker, as well as the sponsor of its men’s and women’s team shirts. Parker is also an OL international ambassador.
Jean-Michel Aulas, the OL Groupe owner and president, will serve as Reign FC chairman of the board of directors, where Parker will also have a seat. Predmore will become the club’s chief executive while a chief operating officer will be named by OL Groupe at a later date.
Reign Academy, which is owned and operated by Reign FC, will also become a part of the OL family. Teresa Predmore will remain as president of the Reign Academy youth programs.
Olympique Lyonnais Féminin – which has a sister men’s team in Ligue 1 – is the most successful women’s soccer team in the world, with 13 consecutive domestic league titles and six Uefa Women’s Champions League titles, including the last four in a row.
Megan Rapinoe, the Reign FC and United States Women’s National Team superstar, played for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in the 2013-14 season.
“We are very excited to have OL Groupe join our ownership group as we further enhance the league’s global leadership in the women’s game,” said NWSL president Amanda Duffy. “The OL Groupe has shown tremendous success in our sport and their involvement with NWSL will help the league’s continued growth.”
Predmore added: “Our ambition has always been to operate the best women’s football club in the world. This is a distinction long held by OL, making them the perfect organization to help us achieve our long-term objectives for the club. We believe the combination of OL’s experience and expertise with our knowledge of the market and league will allow future investments to deliver the optimal impact to the club and to the NWSL.”
OL Groupe becomes the first international majority owner of an NWSL team. LaLiga giants FC Barcelona is also looking to set up a team in the NWSL, but is insisting on a sponsorship exemption to wear Nike kits indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the NWSL announced that it will remain at nine teams for 2020, despite reports that an expansion side in Sacramento would join the league next season. “The league continues to engage in substantive discussions with several potential expansion groups with the possibility of announcing additional teams for the 2021 season in early 2020,” the league said in a statement.
At the Reign FC press conference, Duffy added that she expected that the NWSL’s management agreement with the United States Soccer Federation will continue for another year.
It was reported earlier this month that US Soccer had refused a $47m funding proposal by NWSL team owners. US Soccer instead offered to manage the NWSL for another season while negotiations for the league to run as an independent operation continue. It appears that the NWSL has taken up the offer.