Women’s Multiclub Football Pioneer in Talks Over First Deal

Mercury 13, a newly-formed company chasing stakes in women’s football clubs, is in talks to strike its first deal.

(Bloomberg) — Mercury 13, a newly-formed company chasing stakes in women’s football clubs, is in talks to strike its first deal. 

The company led by tech entrepreneur Victoire Cogevina Reynal is in exclusive discussions to take a stake in the women’s team at Lewes FC, a small fan-owned club based near Brighton on England’s south coast, according to a statement on Thursday. 

Lewes runs both a men’s and a women’s football team, which are resourced equally—a rare approach in the sport. “Lewes was a clear choice because they represent many core principles of how we believe a women’s club should be managed,” Cogevina Reynal said in the statement.

Cogevina Reynal has launched Mercury 13 at a time when interest, and money, in the women’s game is growing, and on the back of a successful World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The company is raising $100 million to pursue multiclub ownership across Europe and Latin America, Bloomberg News reported last week. 

“Every women’s league in Europe is very much in its infancy, and by operating simultaneously with local clubs, Mercury 13 will be able to have a much higher impact in the commercial/sponsorship realm, broadcasting, player development and in the near future, player transfer fees,” Cogevina Reynal said in a separate emailed statement.

Consultation Period 

A deal with the Lewes women’s team will hinge on whether Mercury 13 can convince its owners that being part of a multiclub stable will bring more on-field and financial success. Proponents of the model cheer the long-term benefits of player sharing and more lucrative sponsorship deals, while critics say it stifles competition and creates feeder teams.

Lewes’s Chief Executive Officer Maggie Murphy will begin a consultation period over a Mercury 13 deal with owners and other stakeholders on Thursday.

“We want to do this in a collaborative way,” Murphy said in an interview. Mercury 13’s expertise and experience offered a big opportunity for Lewes, she said, while acknowledging that “change is always a challenge.” 

The Lewes women’s team competes in the second tier of professional women’s football in England. It plays at The Dripping Pan, a tiny stadium that’s been Lewes’s home since its foundation in 1885. Corporate hospitality at the ground comes in the form of beach huts. Murphy said average attendance for women’s games climbed from roughly 100 fans per match in 2017 to around 700 last season. A Women’s FA Cup game against Manchester United in March drew a record crowd of more than 2,800. 

Among those involved with Mercury 13 are Eniola Aluko, an ex-professional England footballer, sports industry consultant Michael Broughton and former FIFA executive Luis Vicente, according to Thursday’s statement.

Cogevina Reynal previously launched Gloria, a football app that was sold to media platform OneFootball last year. Prior to Gloria, she co-founded football agency SR All Stars.

Read More: One Owner, Multiple Teams — Why This Trend Is Roiling World Football

(Adds detail on Cogevina Reynal in final paragraph.)

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