Olympique Lyonnais in talks to become majority owners of Reign FC

Reign FC, which features USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, could soon be under the same ownership as European powerhouse Lyon. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Reign FC announced Monday it had entered into exclusive negotiations to sell a majority stake in the club to the OL Group, which owns the Olympique Lyonnais men’s and women’s first division teams in France.

“Our ambition has always been to operate the best women’s football club in the world,” Reign FC majority owner Bill Predmore said in a statement. “This is a distinction long held by OL, making them the perfect organization to help us achieve our long-term objectives for the club.”

Bill Predmore and his wife, Teresa, would become minority owners with Bill serving as the Reign FC CEO, per the release. According to the Seattle Times, the minority investors the Predmores took on in January will not have a stake in the team once the sale is completed.

The deal is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2020.

Olympique Lyonnais, Reign FC connections

Olympique Lyonnais is the most successful women’s soccer team in the world with six Champions League titles, including the past four straight. The team also has a 13-year run of domestic league titles.

Reign FC has won two National Women’s Soccer League Shields (2014, 2015), awarded to the best team in the regular season, and made four playoff appearances in its seven seasons. Forward Bethany Balcer won Rookie of the Year this past season, and Vlatko Andonovski won Coach of the Year before taking over the U.S. women’s national team this autumn.

The franchise features USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, who was assigned to Seattle at the founding of the league. She played for Lyon in 2013 and left to jump-start the NWSL back home. Jess Fishlock has also played for both clubs, joining Seattle at its founding and playing for Lyon on loan earlier this season.

Lyon’s potential impact on NWSL

In a separate release, Olympique Lyonnais announced it as an “investment project” that it expects to “consolidate OL’s position as a major player in women’s football worldwide and further develop the OL brand in the United States.”

Predmore said in the team statement that Lyon could provide the investments into the team’s facilities, staff, players and league that both Reign FC and the NWSL “demands.”

“OL has the capacity to make these needed investments, and the knowledge and experience to make those investments in the manner most likely to yield results. We believe the combination of OL’s experience and expertise with our knowledge of the market and league will allow future investments to deliver the optimal impact to the club and to the NWSL.”

Reign FC had its “best-ever financial performance” in 2019, per the release, with record revenues in ticket sales, merchandise and sponsors. Its match against the Chicago Red Stars on July 28 set a club attendance record.

The NWSL had a big boost after the World Cup and saw increased attendance, but it is still working on improving facilities and player support.

There have been strides. Just last week, Sky Blue FC announced it would play its 2020 home schedule at Red Bull Arena, the state-of-the-art soccer-specific stadium in Harrison, N.J.

The league announced a new compensation structure for 2020, though the allocation money addition has received some blowback with Rapinoe Rapinoe speaking to the USWNT players’ concerns.

Reign FC will continue to play its home games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, where it relocated from Seattle this past season.

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