Reign FC made a splash last January when they announced they were moving their operations from Memorial Stadium in Seattle to Cheney Stadium, 30 miles south. Today, they dropped a cannon ball into the pool.
In an announcement seemingly out of nowhere, the Reign FC ownership group disclosed today that they have entered into “exclusive negotiations” with OL Groupe, the parent company of Olympique Lyonnais, to sell a majority stake of the team.
“When Bill [Predmore] shared the news I was stunned, but my mind was immediately racing and dreaming about all the possibilities of what the two clubs could accomplish together,” said Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock in a release. “Lyon and Reign are both amazing organizations and I am so proud to have played for both clubs. Bringing the clubs together is for me the perfect combination – I literally can’t think of a better outcome for two clubs who are so dedicated to the growth of the women’s game. I am incredibly excited about what the future holds for both clubs.”
Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) boasts arguably the best women’s team in the world, playing in French Division 1 Féminine, where they have won the league title every year since the 2006-07 season. Similarly, they’ve captured the UEFA Women’s Champion’s league four seasons in a row.
According to the release, the pending sale will not see a complete severing of ties between Reign FC and their current ownership group. “Current Reign FC majority owners Teresa Predmore and Bill Predmore will retain a minority stake in the club after the sale to OL Groupe has been completed, and Bill Predmore will serve as the CEO of Reign FC,” according to a release from Reign FC.
However, Seattle Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer, who invested in Reign FC at the same time the move to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma was announced, will no longer have any role with Reign FC. “The Hanauer Family and Tacoma Soccer Ventures, who were announced as investors in Reign FC in conjunction with the team’s move to Tacoma in January 2019, will not have an ownership position in the club after the sale to OL Groupe has been completed,” the release continued.
The sale to the OL Groupe will not have any immediate operational impact on the Reign FC, as they will continue to play games at Cheney Stadium. The parties will continue to work to construct a soccer specific stadium in Tacoma where Reign and the Tacoma Defiance (the Sounders USL affiliate) would call home. “The new stadium project represents a unique opportunity for Tacoma and for our entire region, as the project may be the first soccer-specific stadium designed from the start to incorporate the feedback and requirements of a professional women’s soccer team,” said Predmore in the release. “We’ll continue to do whatever we can to support the efforts of Mayor Woodards, the Sounders, Rainiers, the City of Tacoma, and Metro Parks Tacoma to help make the stadium project a reality as soon as possible.”
According to a story in the Equalizer, one of the technical changes as it pertains to the 2020 season is that Reign FC have signed a lease to continue playing at Cheney as a tenant, “since there is no longer shared ownership with the operators — and is actively involved in conversations about the proposed Tacoma soccer stadium which wouldn’t realistically open until at least 2022.” The story also notes that Predmore is open to playing games at CenturyLink field, though there are still financial considerations to be taken into account given the capacity of CenturyLink field (69,000) relative to the attendance Reign FC captures per game.
Reign FC is coming off what can be considered a successful season on and off the field in 2019, after a tumultuous 2018 season. While Reign FC made the playoffs in 2018, Memorial Stadium was an ill fit for the Reign, given the lack of amenities, questionable playing surface and deteriorating infrastructure.
The move to Cheney was well-received after some initial consternation, and Reign FC increased their attendance from 3,824 to 5,213, bouyed by the star-turns of Allie Long and Megan Rapinoe in the 2019 Women’s World Cup championship run. Additionally, Reign FC made the playoffs once again, bowing out in the semifinals in extra-time to eventual champions North Carolina Courage.
The sale is expected to be completed before January 31, 2020.