WNBA Star Sue Bird sees growth in women’s professional soccer, buys stake in New York area team

sue Bird, which is nearing retirement, has announced that it is buying a minority stake in the NJ/NY Gotham FC women’s national soccer franchise. Forbes.

For the Women’s National Basketball Association star, 41, it’s more about the potential for growth in the league than a get-rich-quick scheme. She joins the all-star list of Gotham Club investors that includes New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy Murphy; NBA star Kevin Durant’s investment firm, Thirty Five Ventures; And former US soccer star Carli Lloyd. The financial terms of Bird’s stake were not disclosed, but the investment includes a requirement that Bird act as a “adviser” for the club as Gotham FC looks to increase its brand profile in the busy regional and national sports scene.

The value of the NWSL franchise remains unclear. Sports bankers said Forbes To consider businesswoman Michelle Kang’s February purchase of NWSL’s Washington Spirit for You mentioned $35 million. Also, a fund linked to Los Angeles-based Angel City FC has raised more than $20 million, valuing the fund at $110 million, according to PitchBook. Angel City Football Club said it raised even more capital in February 2022.

Bird said Forbes That Gotham FC appears sustainable but declined to discuss the financial details. However, she said, Gotham Club has met the requirements of her work and to support the empowerment of women in sport. She added that investing in the NWSL club did not require any persuasion from her fiancé, soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

“It wasn’t a conversation,” Baird said. “It was, ‘Yeah, that sounds cool. “

Arrows pointing up for NWSL

On June 16, Bird announced planning to retire Having played 21 seasons with the Seattle Storm, the team that drafted her first team in 2002. The 12-time star led the Storm to four WNBA championships and won five Olympic golds. This season is almost finished $72,000According to Spotrac, who tracks sports contracts.

When asked to sum up her career in two words, Bird said, “Winner and longevity.”

Bird said that she started thinking about life after the WNBA in 2014, “I understood at some point that my life as an athlete was going to end, and I wanted to be ready for that moment.” She began exploring investments in small businesses and now has stakes in companies including the San Francisco-based fitness equipment maker Tonal. This company raised $250 million in 2021, according to PitchBook. Bird also co-owns a media production company, Togethxr.

Bird said that NWSL has “really done the hard part” by overcoming the early challenges facing startups. The league launched in 2013 and is playing its tenth season. The league, like its predecessors, the Women’s Soccer League and Women’s Professional Soccer, aims to capitalize on the popularity of women’s soccer in the United States.

Led by stars including Rapinoe, Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, the US national team sparked a huge interest in women’s football in 2015 when it won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a rematch with Japan. The game set a record 25 million viewers iIn the US in 2019, the team won again, attracting an average of 14 million viewers. This beat out the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup, which averaged 11.4 million viewers.

During the pandemic, the NWSL has seen a surge in viewership after it became the first league to return after the Covid-19 shutdown. Her Challenge Cup averaged 653,000 viewers in July 2020 on CBS. This was above the average of 166,000 viewers who watched the 2019 NWSL game. averaging championship 2021 525,000 viewers.

“The level of talent continues to improve, which is indicative of the high level that is being played in the United States,” Bird said.

The NWSL is emerging from a rocky 2021 that saw league commissioner Lisa Bird resigning after players brought allegations of sexual misconduct against former North Carolina brawler coach Paul Riley. In April 2022, Chief Sports Officer Jessica Berman Take charge As an NWSL commissioner, she will work with investment firm Inner Circle Sports to expand the league.

Byrd, a native of New York, cited the league’s improved leadership as a reason to feel comfortable investing in the Gotham team. “It’s about the talent on the field and what they represent off the field,” she said. “This is, to me, a reason to invest.”

Should the NWSL grow or maintain viewership growth, this may help investors see a return on investments in franchises. NWSL has rights deals with CBS Sports and Amazon that collectively pay a You mentioned $2.5 million. These agreements run until 2024. The federation and its players have also agreed on their first collective bargaining agreement, which guarantees workers’ peace for the next five years. The deal requires a $100 million investment by team owners.

Baird said all arrows are “pointing in the right direction” Forbes. She said investing in women’s sports “is probably the best investment you can make right now because of the level of growth.”