Silver Lake, the US private equity group, has finalised a deal to acquire a minority stake in the A-Leagues, Australia’s club soccer competitions, for A$130 million ($93 million).
The agreement gives the firm a 33.3 per cent share in Australian Professional Leagues (APL), the newly-created organisation that owns and runs the men’s A-League and women’s W-League domestic competitions.
The deal values APL at A$425 million and represents the biggest commercial deal and capital investment in the history of Australian soccer.
As part of the investment deal, Silver Lake’s managing director Stephen Evans will get a seat on the organisation’s board.
The investment will be used to build a digital media platform and will focus heavily on technology enhancements and innovation aimed at improving fan experience and developing the sport in Australia.
It is also expected that some of the funds will be made available to clubs for marquee player transfers, as well as to cover the costs of the competition’s promotion, long-term operating costs and future investments.
APL was established after national governing body Football Australia (FA) relinquished control of the A-League and W-League, handing over the commercial reins to the 12 A-League clubs.
The leagues operate under the umbrella of FA as the top-tier competitions in Australia, while operational, commercial and marketing activity comes under the control of APL.
Paul Lederer, A-Leagues chairman, said: “This valuation recognises the latent potential that has long existed in the professional game in Australia, and the ability of our board and executive team to realise that potential.”
Evans added: "APL has a large, growing and passionate fan base across its thirteen teams and the organization has made great strides as it focuses on leveraging technology to strengthen Australian football and enrich the fan experience."
Silver Lake joins broadcasting giant ViacomCBS as a major commercial partner with an equity stake in the A-Leagues, while the 12 clubs will remain the majority owners of the competition.
In May, the A-Leagues entered into a landmark five-year broadcast rights deal with ViacomCBS-owned Network Ten, its first with a free-to-air network.
Both the men’s and women’s leagues also have new naming rights sponsors (Isuzu and Liberty, respectively) and a new five-year collective bargaining agreement with Professional Footballers Australia was announced in September.
The agreement will not be Silver Lake’s first foray into soccer, having bought a 10 per cent share in City Football Group, the organisation that has investments in seven soccer clubs worldwide, headlined by English Premier League champions Manchester City, for $500 million in 2019.
The California-based firm is also notably attempting to acquire a stake in New Zealand Rugby but has been unable to finalise a deal due to opposition from national team players.
NZR recently received unanimous support from the provincial unions for a NZ$387 million ($262.8 million) agreement with Silver Lake to go ahead.