WNBA, which celebrated its 25th season last year, enters a transitional phase With a chance to lay the foundation for the next quarter century. Commissioner Kathy Engelbert recognizes that this is an important extension and has been adamant in building the financial base that will allow the League to thrive.
Expansion is one of the The biggest topics in the league, and Engelbert recently told the Athletic The plan is to identify a city or two this year. The new franchises could be up and running by 2024, bringing the number of teams to 14.
While speculation continues about potential locations, the ownership groups that will take care of these franchises are more influential. Engelbert said the league uses 20 data points to look at potential owners, including track, season tickets and corporate sponsorship plans.
“It doesn’t mean that you can have an ownership group in that particular city that might really score high on all of these data points,” Engelbert said. “So you are looking for a long-term commitment. You are looking for a diverse group of owners. You are looking for someone who is committed, again, for the long term. They need money. We need finances.”
Engelbert was on a mission to build the league vaults. Received a capital investment of $75 million It has brought in corporate partners under the league’s Changemakers Program at Nike, AT&T, Google, Deloitte and US Bank. It has been cautious about financial commitments on a large scale to ensure that all franchises remain in good standing.
This has led to a split between teams that want to spend more freely and those that don’t or don’t. Two of the league’s newest owners, Las Vegas Aces’ Mark Davis and New York Liberty’s Joseph Tsai, made headlines last year about their willingness to spend. The Aces team are building a new training facility and have made Becky Hammon the first coach with an annual salary of over $1 million. Freedom He was fined by the WNBA last year for chartering flightswhich is not allowed.
That fine and constant rotation between players traveling for commercial purposes of games became an example of this dichotomy. Should teams be allowed to spend more freely, which could lead to a competitive advantage?
“I don’t know what balance is,” said Mystex coach and general manager Mike Thibault. “But I do think that as you advance in the league there are higher expectations of what needs to be done. You cannot keep saying your whole life that you want to level the playing field to the lower level. There has to be something in the middle or towards the top.”
The split is not always financial. Billionaire James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks, was the previous owner of the Liberty, but the franchise faltered when he moved the team to the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, and he lost a large portion of his fans.
Tsai, which is worth $8.7 billion According to Forbes magazine, bought the team and moved it to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Davis owns the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL and has been a supporter of spending more in the WNBA, but his net worth is less than $1 billion, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Seattle Storm owners Jenny Gilder, Don Trudeau and Lisa Brommel aren’t billionaires but are investing heavily in the franchise.
Engelbert backs away from the idea that some owners aren’t investing in their franchises and in the league, but Tsai tweeted last yearThe League says you can’t travel by plane because different owners have different financial situations.
The Freedom Estate declined an interview request for this story.
Charter flights are just one example, but it remains visible and highly interested in players.
“There has to be a basic standard of what this privilege looks like no matter what city you are in,” said 19-year-old veteran Diana Torassi. “If you are not able to do everything, you will have difficulty.
“So I think Mark Davis has kind of set the gold standard for what we’re looking at as far as people who want to invest in the WNBA. And to make money, you have to spend money. And look at Mr. Davis. He has the best team in the league for a reason.”
Interest in the WNBA and women’s sports is at an all-time high, and there is an opportunity to move forward in the league with a certain type of ownership group.
“Money is good, but money is for a much better purpose — and vision, said Meredith Cash, a Business Insider reporter. “My big feelings not only with the WNBA but with so many different women’s sports leagues, it’s like you’re asking to be taken seriously, but you have to make an effort and take yourself seriously too. It’s not dangerous to fly [Los Angeles Sparks 6-foot-8 center] Liz Campage in Coach.
“You have to trust your product enough to make it serious and not just meet the lowest common denominator, especially as the league is growing and the players are really demanding what they deserve.”
The players are paying attention.
“At what point can we make this league go where it should go and stop living 20 years ago?” Daily Don said. “And if these owners want to treat their players really well, it’s hard to say no to that. I don’t.
“[When an owner wants to invest in something] Then we stop it because those older owners or whatever had a different mindset about it, I don’t know. You will have to choose at some point what is best for this league.”