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Michele Kang adds London City Lionesses to growing global empire

Kang now owns the Washington Spirit, Lyon women and London City, with more clubs promised to come

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Michele Kang’s growing empire is expanding to England. Kang has acquired London City Lionesses, a team that currently plays in the Women’s Championship, England’s second division.

London City is the third club to join Kang’s portfolio, alongside the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit and French powerhouse Lyon.

“I want to thank Diane [Culligan, London City Lionesses founder] for her vision in establishing LCL in 2019 and for entrusting me with the responsibility to take the club to the next level,” Kang said. “I see tremendous possibility in this team and look forward to helping the club and the players reach their highest potential.”

London City currently sits ninth in the standings in the Championship. The club says it is the only independent, women’s-only club in England’s top two tiers, referencing its status as unaffiliated with any men’s team. It was founded by Culligan in 2019. That profile lines up with Kang’s vision for the global portfolio she wants to build, and the women-first mentality she expects to instill.

Kang spoke to this author earlier this year for an ESPN article, detailing how she feels women’s soccer is unique from the men’s game on and off the field. Women’s athletes need to be treated as women, Kang said, and they need to be invested in independently. She is already in the process of fully separating eight-time European champion Lyon women from the men’s team. The Spirit are independent of any men’s affiliations and will serve as the global catalyst to the group’s efforts.

“We’re going to create some sort of an innovation lab,” Kang said earlier this year. “It’s going to be dedicated, the staff and everything else, toward the Spirit. To some extent, because we started [with] the Spirit, this is going to be where we start developing most of the things. All the methodology, training methodology, all that stuff will be shared. Staff will go back and forth and will train the trainers.”

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Kang said she is targeting other teams in Asia, South America, Latin America and Africa. She said in the spring that she would add at least one more team before the end of the calendar year. Kang had previously toured some of the top facilities in England to get an idea for the infrastructure she needs to build at each club she acquires.

London City is especially appealing as a team in England’s top two tiers because of impending changes coming to England’s commercial structure. Beginning in the 2024-25 season, the top flight — the Women’s Super League — and the second division will move to a governance structure independent of the Football Association. The new structure, temporarily called “NewCo,” was recently announced and is expected to put the women’s game in England on a path toward a higher ceiling, similar to how the adaptation of the Premier League model in the early ’90s created a boom for the men’s game.

“The NewCo model is a great example of how women’s sports will be uplifted in England and globally,” Kang said. “We need more investment focused solely on the female game so that the resources are uncompromised.”

Each club in Kang’s portfolio will maintain its own name and branding. The Spirit are in the middle of a rebrand that is yet to be revealed. Each team will also get its own individual investments, including plans for custom-built training centers for both the Spirit and Lyon.

“I want to make sure that each team is champion in its own country,” Kang said. “We’re not sacrificing one team for the benefit of another. We’re going to give everything and anything that each team needs to be successful. They’ll maintain their own identity, fandom — those are all very local, not central, or global.”

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