Julie Uhrman is a big, big sports fan.
The co-founder and president of Angel City FC, the new NWSL expansion team just announced, grew up playing basketball, has season tickets for USC, name-checks several men’s and women’s soccer leagues and says her most recent sporting passion is car racing circuit Formula 1. Now, she’s about to take a deep plunge in owning a women’s soccer team.
With Angel City FC’s unveiling Tuesday, featuring a large and star-studded ownership group that is predominantly made up of women, Uhrman spoke to Angels on Parade about the new venture, the inspiration, and the initial reaction.
“The response has been incredibly positive,” Uhrman said. “It’s so joyful, to see people excited about seeing a women’s professional soccer team in Los Angeles, seeing more professional women’s soccer, period, in the United States. It’s super exciting and seeing the attention that is coming to these exceptional athletes and to these other clubs that have worked really hard over the last eight years to build this league.”
The team in Los Angeles will be the third NWSL club on the West Coast, following OL Reign FC and the Portland Thorns, and the first in the state of California. The widely-publicized announcement was evidence of the demand for the women’s top flight to come to Los Angeles.
“It’s been really gratifying. I mean we’re putting something out into the world that people want, and that feels really good,” Uhrman said.
Combining tech entrepreneurs and other businesspeople, sportswomen, including over a dozen alumnae of the U.S. Women’s National Team and tennis superstar Serena Williams, several household name actresses, including Natalie Portman, who helped spearhead the effort, among others, Uhrman says the ownership group aims to bring a unique experience to games through their collective ability to tell stories.
“We put together an incredible founding investor group that are all storytellers,” Uhrman explained. “So whether they’re actresses or activists, technologists or venture capitalists, or work in the entertainment business: We know how to tell stories. And our goal is to tell stories and create narratives around the league, the team, the players, our community and fans, and that will be the foundation for how we think about sports and work to transcend that sports IP into a real global brand. And so our goal is to think about sports like it’s an entertainment product, how you create a FOMO [fear of missing out] experience. And how do you get everyone excited to come to another sporting event in Los Angeles, where there’s already nine professional teams and two NCAA powerhouses with USC and UCLA.”
They’ll look to inspiration in other sports and entertainment more broadly, but the powers behind Angel City FC will be firmly grounded in the world of soccer, too.
“As far as inspiration, I think it was 2019, Wembley Stadium sold out for a women’s match. That’s our goal, we want to sell out every game...Play incredible soccer right here in Los Angeles, and bring the fans as close to the action as possible.
“We’ve seen the rabid fan base of soccer fans here in Los Angeles with their support of LAFC, the LA galaxy and even the US national team when they play here. So we know that we can do something pretty special with our collection of founders and then also with our supporters group, which started way before us,” Uhrman added.
She credited the grassroots NWSL to LA movement — which Portman famously signed a petition in favor of and promoted months ago — as demonstrating the demand for a local women’s pro team.
⚽ is more than a sport, it's a global phenomenon that deserves a home in a global city like Los Angeles.— #BroughtNWSLtoLA (@NWSL_LA) July 22, 2020
We're so excited to help bring @weareangelcity to the City of Angels.
Welcome to the beginning.
Join us: https://t.co/xwP2Qj6DlI pic.twitter.com/7tyNUcEzdq
“Lindsay and Mark Rojas from NWSL LA had been waving the flag of bringing NWSL to LA for a long time now, and they’ve done an incredible job building a lot of excitement for a women’s team here, and the support that they want to bring us to make it happen, it’s truly incredible and we’re already working closely with them,” Uhrman said.
While fans in Southern California waited for one of the MLS clubs to take the plunge and get involved in NWSL, neither team opted to get involved in an ownership capacity. But with Angel City FC to be the only NWSL team in LA — for the foreseeable future anyway — Uhrman thinks the new team can bring fans together and bridge divides.
“Like the LA Sparks we do not have a rivalry here in Los Angeles, we hope to unite all of the soccer fans to support a women’s professional soccer team here,” she said. “We are an independent ownership group that is building a women’s professional soccer club.”
As for the name, the initial announcement indicated Angel City FC is a provisional name for now. Uhrman explained what comes next regarding the name, with the team tabbed to begin play in 2022.
“We’ve adopted the name Angel City to be reflective of the City of Angels and where we’re going to play,” she said. “We are working on our branding right now, we’re bringing in our supporters community to get feedback and guidance and their thoughts as well so we want to make this a community effort and make progress to announce it before the end of the year.”
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