Top club executives in FA summit to thrash out women's football funding

Some of English football's top executives will hold talks on Wednesday to thrash out a new ownership structure for the Women's Super League (WSL).

Sky News has learnt that bosses including Tottenham Hotspur's Daniel Levy, Baroness Brady, the West Ham United vice-chair, and FA chief executive Mark Bellingham will be among those attending the summit at a London hotel.

The meeting will examine proposals for the WSL and the second-tier Championship to raise external financing and transition to a so-called 'newco' that would own the sport's commercial rights.

Some club executives expect the Premier League to table a formal proposal in the coming months that would see it underwrite a funding package for the WSL in exchange for some degree of control over it

Richard Masters, the Premier League's chief executives, has said publicly that it is interested in taking control of the WSL.

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

The WSL is said to be keen to secure as much as £100m to fund the development of the competition and the broader women's game.

Rothschild's prospective reappointment - more than 18 months after it was asked by the WSL and Football Association to explore funding options for the league - comes as attendances at WSL matches reach unprecedented heights.

England's victory in the European Championships last summer has sparked a wave of new interest in the game.

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.

Last July, Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA director of women's football, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that it was "working with the [WSL] clubs to create a company which will be an FA subsidiary and the FA will still be there as a shareholder".

The WSL league table is currently led by Chelsea, ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United, the last of which will be represented at Wednesday's meeting in London by Patrick Stewart, its general counsel.

The FA has been determined to establish greater financial independence for the elite women's league, and in 2021 secured what was described as a "game-changing" multimillion pound broadcast deal with Sky Sports - which shares an owner with Sky News - and the BBC.

A deal to commercialise and promote the WSL more effectively would provide the FA with a welcome boost to its coffers given the impact of the pandemic.

Barclays has become title sponsor of the WSL and has pledged to inject substantial sums into helping grow the sport at grassroots levels.

The FA also brought in Dawn Airey, a heavyweight media executive, as chair of the WSL and the Women's Championship.

The interest of buyout firms in taking a stake in the WSL underlines the ongoing interest in elite sports series from private equity investors.

The FA and the clubs contacted by Sky News declined to comment.