The Mercury/13 group’s goal is to reconsider the ownership of football.

The Mercury/13 group’s goal is to reconsider the ownership of football.

On a March day by Lake Como, a significant event took place. A group called Mercury/13, dedicated solely to women’s soccer, obtained its inaugural team – FC Como Women of Serie A Femminile.

Mercury/13, founded by Victoire Cogevina Reynal, has pledged $100m (£85.5m) to building up a portfolio of teams across the globe, a “pure play” investor that unlocks clubs’ commercial potential. Reynal and her co-CEO, Mario Malavé, have brought notable figures on board, including the former England international Eni Aluko and Women in Football’s Ebru Koksal.

“The goal we’ve held since the beginning was to reconsider the concept of football ownership,” says Cogevina Reynal in an interview with Moving the Goalposts. “Women’s football presents the chance to create a new business, without the influence of the past success and mistakes of the men’s game. How can we use these lessons to enhance and develop the model? Our role as investors and operators is focused on establishing a sustainable business model that enables true independence.”

Como was a perfect fit for its inaugural investment. “Como came to the top of the list very fast for several reasons,” Cogevina Reynal says. “The location is the more obvious one. Our entire thesis is ensuring that we can commercialise clubs … and having a great location certainly helps.

“Once we started digging into the reality of the club and understanding the way it’s structured, we came across a fantastic owner. Stefano Verga [Como’s president, who will continue in his role and remain a shareholder] is incredibly passionate about the team. He took over five years ago, got them promoted several times, and now they’re playing at the top of Italian football with a fraction of the budget of their competitors. They do it all with a lot of pride and care.”

Cogevina Reynal clearly recognizes the potential and values the independence of the sport. The recent evaluations of National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) clubs, such as Angel City (backed by celebrity investors like Serena Williams, Christina Aguilera, Eva Longoria, and Billie Jean King) being valued at $180 million, show the success and growth of the league. However, it should be mentioned that the culture of women’s soccer in the USA differs from that in Europe, as many teams in Europe operate under the umbrella of men’s organizations.

Como’s Melania Martinovic holds off a Sassuolo defender.View image in fullscreen

Mercury/13 focuses heavily on the commercial possibilities of the sport. Cogevina Reyna expresses her enthusiasm, saying, “It’s thrilling because we have the opportunity to collaborate with brands that were previously unaware of football as a platform.” The company reaches out to beauty, fashion, pharmaceutical, baby product, and fertility brands, many of which have a strong female-centric approach. We introduce them to a new realm and demonstrate its potential.

In the past, women’s teams have been disappointed when promises are made but not kept when challenges arise. Cogevina Reynal strongly believes that Mercury/13 is committed for the long haul. She explains that in Europe, they attract top players who are drawn to the club’s forward-thinking approach and long-term vision. This will have an impact on various aspects, including the players’ experience, additional services offered, and opportunities after retirement.

“All these things are happening because the only thing that we do from day to night is think about women’s football. That’s the reality that big men’s clubs don’t have today. It’s not personal. It’s just a business decision where you need to focus on something else.”

The path to success for Mercury/13 has had its challenges. The group explored the option of acquiring Lewes, but ultimately decided against it. Cogevina Reynal states that this is a common occurrence for a fund. Despite this disappointment, the group is still determined to enter the UK market and aims to do so before the year’s end.

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At the moment, the attention of Mercury/13 is primarily on Como, where the team is already present. Cogevina Reynal expresses her belief that the club holds a special appeal and hopes that others will also see its potential. She sees it as a utopia, particularly in a country like Italy where women still face barriers to equality.

“Clearly, our goal is to improve our performance on the field, but more importantly, we aim to achieve commercial success. We are eagerly anticipating a successful model, similar to Angel City in the US, to emerge in Europe. Hopefully, Como will be that one.”

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