A number of celebrities including Serena Williams and Natalie Portman have thrown their financial support behind a new Los Angeles-based women’s team. They are part of a group called Angel City (although the club has no official name yet) and aim to launch the team in time for the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League season. As California’s only team in the professional women’s league, there is a sense that the group can act as pioneers and help to further grow the sport in the US. Here we look at the potential impact of the announcement and how it can help the US national team to continue to dominate.
The majority of female founding members certainly have lofty ambitions with president Julie Uhrman stating ‘We come together with a collective passion for bringing about change. Change for our players, change for our fans, and change for our community.’ They have already signaled their commitment to making a tangible difference in the community through its partnership with the LA84 Foundation. The foundation supports hundreds of non-profit youth sports organizations throughout Southern California.
Furthermore, the club has announced their formal support for the Play Equity Fund which is ‘committed to driving access to sport for under-served communities, including communities of color, girls, the physically challenged and developmentally disabled.’ The mission statement and intent of Angel City is clear and it is hoped that their efforts will encourage other clubs to follow suit by pursuing progressive, inclusive policies.
Although the women’s national side has won the past two World Cups, there is always room for improvement with competitors strengthening each year. Japan, the winners of the 2011 women’s World Cup, have recently announced a new fully-professional women’s league to start in 2021. The league is seeking to emulate the success of the J-League which has fostered a marked improvement in the men’s national side; although they remain +25000 outsiders at William Hill to win the World Cup. The Japanese women’s national side have shown greater World Cup pedigree already and the formation of a fully-professional league can only serve to make them even more fearsome challengers.
Therefore, opening up the women’s game to the state of California is potentially going to be a huge boon for the US national side. It will bring in a whole new audience of young fans who may be inspired by the players in front of them and the increased crowd sizes for NWSL games in general. Alexis Ohanian, husband of Serena Williams and fellow investor, emphasized that he wanted his two-year-old daughter to have ‘a front-row seat to this revolution.’ There is clear recognition amongst the group’s founders that attracting and inspiring a new generation of soccer fans is the outstanding remit for the club.
Its star power is certainly striking at first but with no venue or even a name completed yet, it is also obvious that the really hard work still lies ahead. The level of financial backing, however, and the overriding enthusiasm of its owners makes it difficult to doubt that the group will make a success of this venture.
Its emphasis on social justice and growing the women’s game should be applauded and encouraged. We can but hope that this represents a watershed moment for the expected responsibilities of wealthy sports franchises and their community outreach for the growth of the game.