The group is in an exclusivity negotiation period to invest in England’s second-division club, women’s team Lewes FC. “Lewes was a clear choice since they represent many core principles of how we believe a women’s club should be managed,” says Cogevina. Negotiations for first division teams in Spain and Italy are also advanced. Argentina and Uruguay will be the next targets for the newly formed multi-club ownership group
Cogevina has embarked on a mission that transcends the borders of women’s football and extends into the realm of building a brighter world for her newborn daughter. Driven by this purpose, Victoire convened a collective of industry leaders who she knew shared her passion for creating disruptive change in women’s football.
The group is made up of seasoned executives with successful track records in sport, investment, and technology. The founder assures that the team is positioned with unique backgrounds, experience, and skills to become the main player in this space.
Among the confirmed members of the group are Luis Vicente, former FIFA Chief Innovation Officer, Nancy Hensley, formerly Chief Product and Marketing at Stats Perform, Eniola Aluko, former Chelsea & England pro footballer and former Sporting Director of Aston Villa women & Angel City FC, as well as Arianna Criscione, former Paris Saint Germain goalkeeper and expert consultant on women’s football. Criscione, who is currently 8 months pregnant, and like Victoire, wants a better world for her daughter.
In addition to building out the highly skilled leadership team, the group has attracted key advisory board members such as veteran sports advisor Michael Broughton who co-founded Sports Innovation Partners and has over 22 years of sports experience with deep expertise in media and operations.
Ebru Koksal, former CEO and Board Member of Turkish football club Galatasaray’s board will also be joining Mercury/13’s board. She was the first woman to be elected to the European Club Association Executive Board and is currently INED at the Professional Footballers Association and A-Leagues as well as Chair of Women in Football.
To complete the trio, is Brigit Lee, a tech executive currently with Sony PlayStation and formerly at Amazon and Best Buy. Lee counts 25 years of experience working with both start-ups and large companies to forge global, strategic partnerships and to build out new, innovative business models.
“Building a world-class management team and advisory board has been my first order of business” says Cogevina, who has spoken publicly on this issue on multiple occasions in the past. “Women’s football lacks dedicated executives who can take the business to the next level and transform it into the best asset class of our generation.”
Mercury/13’s vision is to become the industry standard of women’s football ownership, by identifying and investing in the next decade’s super clubs and fueling their commercial power to attract a massive, yet underserved, market: female football fans.
The group’s acquisition strategy is based on the fundamental principle that women’s football is a different game, and fans want a different experience. Understanding these fans is critical to the success of the group’s football clubs. Mercury/13 will focus solely on the acquisition of women’s football clubs with high promotion and marketing potential. “We also aim to influence the industry by bringing parity in the data around women’s football. This is crucial for the growth of the women’s football space and its business opportunities” said Hensley, former Chief Product Officer of Stats Perform, the world’s leading sports data company.
“With the early elimination of the United States and the arrival of Spain, England and Sweden to the semifinals, the commercial potential of Women’s Football in Europe is consolidated. For European football and brands looking at the segment from the sidelines, the FIFA 2023 World Cup has been the confirmation they needed to start considering women’s football as the most watched women’s sport in the world. We should not put the women’s game in the uncomfortable and unfair place of comparing it with the men’s, it stands on its own as a product that is primed to disrupt the football industry as we know it.” says Victoire Cogevina.
Lewes FC is the first club in the world to operate equally, splitting the budget and resources between the men’s and women’s teams. Since adopting this progressive approach in 2017, the women’s team’s attendance, revenue and sponsorship figures have grown. The team plays in the second division and is one promotion away from Barclay’s Super League. Last season, Lewes progressed through to the quarter final of the FA Cup, narrowly losing to Man United.
The group is looking for its first investment to be within Lewes FC, a club that earlier this year saw the Football Business Awards award it first place for fan engagement, beating several Premier League clubs to the title. In the last five years, Lewes FC’s sponsorship has increased twentyfold, and global brands such as Nike, Xero, Lyle & Scott, Curve and SumUp have joined as sponsors.
The group’s first investment is one of the clubs with the highest attendance in the country, which has quadrupled in the last two seasons and ticket prices have increased by 160%. In the last five years, Lewes FC’s sponsorship has increased twentyfold, and global brands such as Xero, Lyle & Scott and SumUp have joined as sponsors.
“The women of Lewes FC are on the brink of greatness, and we look forward to helping them achieve promotion and new scales of commercialization in partnership with Mercury/13.” says the businesswoman of Victoire Cogevina.
Lewes FC CEO Maggie Murphy said “Over many years, and thanks to the efforts of our owners, volunteers, staff, coaches, players, and Directors we have collectively built a club to be proud of. Mindful that we have only scratched the surface of our potential impact on and off the pitch, we have looked to identify potential partners who could not only join but elevate our club community. The team at Mercury/13 have demonstrated their commitment to our steadfast principles of equality, equity, fan ownership, and local to global community impact, which is a hard ask of an investment partner which is why we are keen to progress the conversations”.
The name of the newly formed multi club ownership group Mercury/13 is a tribute to the 13 women who, having passed the astronaut test, were not allowed to work for NASA on the basis of their gender back in 1960. The program that would carry a spacecraft manned only by women was cancelled in 1961. The authorities at the time did not believe that women alone could achieve the goal.
Mercury/13 Holdco, Inc., although operating similarly to a private equity fund, is structured as a Delaware corporation holding company. Funds will be held in custody by Morgan Stanley, which will lead the management of funds and investment operations.
Experienced Sports and M&A attorney Charles Baker, partner and a co-chair of Sidley’s Entertainment, Sports and Media industry group, will represent the group. Baker has extensive experience in acquisitions of top division men’s and women’s clubs across the US and Europe and is well-recognized in the global sports industry.
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