Star-studded investors and “FOMO moments” – how Angel City breaks new ground

Angel City’s opening box office and attendance numbers would make most Women’s Super League marketing departments salivate.

The Los Angeles-based National Women’s Soccer League club, whose high-profile investor group includes Serena Williams, Natalie Portman and Billie Jean King, is attracting an average of 19,000 fans per game in its debut season.

Angel City has surpassed its sales goal of 5,000 season tickets, with 16,000 committed for the full first campaign.

The NWSL isn’t even into its postseason yet, and Angel City’s playoff hopes depend in part on the success of fellow league debutants San Diego Wave this weekend, but 90 percent of those season ticket holders have already signed up for another year obligated.

“The fact that we set ourselves such high goals has allowed us to meet and exceed them,” Julie Uhrman, founder and president of Angel City, told the PA news agency at the Leaders Week Sport Business Conference.

“We didn’t go into the Banc of California stadium, which seats 22,000 people, and say, ‘We want to seat 5,000 people here or we want to seat 10,000 people here.’ It was “how do we sell this out”?

“It was ‘how do we create something so compelling and unique that there’s a FOMO moment where if you’re not there you’re missing out?'”

Last weekend’s north London derby set a record attendance of 47,367 as Arsenal beat Tottenham in WSL, now in its 13th season, at the Emirates.

It was notable, in part because of the still-sporadic chance of seeing a top-flight women’s side at a Premier League ground. Arsenal’s Meadow Park only holds 4,500; Kingsmeadow, home of champions Chelsea, has a capacity of 4,850.

The derby was one of two games at the Premier League venues over the weekend and drew a record 89,381 across the WSL – a number Angel City would match within five games alone at the current average.

So, could Keira Knightley and Adele buy their own WSL page? It’s not quite that simple, but Angel City’s success could serve as inspiration or even security for future investors.

WSL remains under the control of the Football Association, which plans to soon move the English women’s top flight and second tier of the championship to a separate subsidiary with the FA as shareholders, while plans are explored involving eventual private ownership or the Premier League could include involvement.

Angel City’s long list of investors and owners also includes former FIFA World Player of the Year Abby Wambach, singer Christina Aguilera and actress Jennifer Garner.

It also boasts tech venture capitalist Kara Nortman and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, husband of 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams. Even her five-year-old daughter Olympia is a co-owner.

By design, most of Angel City’s key investors and decision makers are women. The club is one of the few majority female founded and managed professional sports teams in the world.

With tennis pioneers King and Williams, Uhrman also has stakeholders who understand what it means not to reinvent the wheel, but to push into terrain many thought impossible.

“These are two unique individuals who know how hard it is,” she said. “Someone has to be first. You have to be uncompromising. You have to fight for what is right, value yourself and be willing to say no because you are undervalued and valued.”

Trying to accommodate every possible customer, Uhrman and her team provide a matchday experience that includes slick video packages on screens and a post-game sunset deck party.

A program incentivizes players not only to encourage fans to attend Angel City games, but also to post the link to the tickets — while earning a percent of the gate fee.

It’s consistent with research showing Gen Z is following individual athletes rather than clubs.

“We want to compensate them for this in the same way we would compensate Google for launching Ticketmaster,” Uhrman said.

“The difference is Christen Press has a million followers, so I’d much rather have her post a link to say, ‘Hey, come and watch me and my teammates play.’

“It’s not a football game, it’s a spectacle in the most positive sense. We build community and enthusiasm.

“A hardcore football fan will come to Angel City, but how do I get the non-hardcore fan? I create an incredible experience, where they want to be, then they fall in love with the team, they fall in love with the sport, then they come to football.”

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