FA proposes £15m WSL loan in bid to break funding impasse

The Football Association (FA) has offered to lend £15m to fund the creation of a new holding company for the commercial activities of the women's professional game after months of talks about how to fund its expansion.

Sky News has learnt that the proposal was tabled at a meeting of key stakeholders earlier this month, including the FA, the Women's Super League (WSL) and its participating clubs.

Sources said the loan offer was raised as one of the options under discussion, although a formal agreement could yet be some way off.

The funding would be aligned with governance rights such as a special share that would be held by the FA.

Clubs were informed at the same meeting that the governing body is now close to finalising the recruitment of Nikki Doucet as the first chief executive of the women's professional game in England.

An announcement about the appointment of Ms Doucet, a former banker and Nike executive, is likely next month, they said.

The 'newco' being established to oversee the WSL and the women's Championship will run the professional game on a standalone basis.

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Last week, Dawn Airey, the media executive who serves as the division's chair, said she had set an ambition of the WSL becoming the world's first £1bn-revenue women's competition within a decade.

"That isn't a figure we just plucked from the air, it is based on a pretty decent and detailed business plan for over the course of the next 10 years," Ms Airey told the media.

"We look at the growth of attendances, we look at the growth of engagement and broadcast, we look at the increased interest in sponsorship and marketing opportunities, and then we start being more imaginative about what attending a women's game means. Not just watching the game, but everything that goes on around it, is there potential for clubs to think differently about their revenues?"

In recent months, top club executives such as Tottenham Hotspur's Daniel Levy and Baroness Karren Brady, the West Ham United vice-chair, have been involved in detailed talks about the future funding and governance of the women's professional game.

England's victorious Euro 2022 campaign and its narrow defeat to Spain in last month's Women's World Cup Final have further fuelled public interest in the sport, with attendances at record levels.

Among the other funding options for the newco is some form of financing from the Premier League, with Richard Masters, its chief executive, having previously said that it is interested in taking control of the WSL.

Last year, the WSL board proposed re-engaging investment bankers at Rothschild to evaluate other sources of capital to support the sport's growth.

Bridgepoint, a private equity firm which recently approached the England and Wales Cricket Board with a proposal to buy a stake in The Hundred, approached the FA about investing in the WSL in 2020.

Private equity investment is not thought to be under active consideration at this point.

The FA declined to comment.