Football Australia approves APL Capital Raise

Football Australia has authorised the completion of a transaction that will see 33.33% of the economic and voting interests in the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) be issued to global private equity firm, Silver Lake.

In accordance with the Unitholders Agreement between Football Australia, APL and the 12 A-Leagues Clubs, the approval of Football Australia is required for each director and unitholder of APL.  Football Australia acknowledged that the introduction of a new share class will increase the concentration of ownership within the APL and this presents additional risks, however, on balance, Football Australia considered that the appropriate governance structures are in place.  The transaction has also received the approval of Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board.

Silver Lake is a global technology investment firm, with more than $90 billion in combined assets under management and committed capital and a team of professionals based in North America, Europe, and Asia. Silver Lake’s portfolio companies collectively generate more than $227 billion of revenue annually and employ more than 567,000 people globally.

The transaction follows the unbundling of the professional leagues from Football Australia, where a key objective of the unbundling process was to establish a corporate model for the professional game in Australia that would allow it to attract third-party capital investment more readily.

Under the new model, Football Australia – as the game’s regulatory body with a ‘good of the game’ responsibility – has wide-ranging powers to protect and preserve the financial integrity and transparency across the professional game. 

Silver Lake have the right to appoint a Director to the Board of the APL.  The newly appointed Director will be Stephen Evans.  Football Australia will also take up its right to appoint a Director to the APL Board early in 2022.

The transaction will provide significant capital that will underpin the future growth and development of the Australia’s premier professional men’s and women’s football competitions, the A-Leagues, and also provides Football Australia with the opportunity to deliver on an exciting growth agenda for the whole of Australian football as part of an ambitious 15-year vision.

Football Australia, Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson said that this significant investment into the game further reinforced the benefits of the unbundling of the professional leagues as the game continues to drive towards an exciting new era for Australian football.

“The ‘unbundling’ of the professional leagues from Football Australia, endorsed unanimously by the game’s stakeholders in late 2020 and effective from 1 July this year, marked the single, most important reform in the modern history of Australian football, allowing Football Australia to fundamentally transform the way the game is managed and governed.”

“We have been able to create a unique model which draws upon global best practice whilst allowing for local specificities. Significantly, the new model establishes a framework for a strong partnership between Football Australia and the APL which recognises the value of a thriving domestic professional league to the ongoing growth of the game in Australia and triggers the ability for significant new investment.”

“The funds that will flow from this transaction will provide crucial capital into the professional game and enable continued investment by Football Australia into strategic initiatives to benefit the Australian football community at large, which could include initiatives such as the expansion of national competitions outside of A-Leagues and investing in digital transformation to enhance the experience of our broad and diverse participation base,” Johnson, said.

Football Australia Chair, Chris Nikou pointed to the structural reform undertaken by the sport in recent years which provides a strong platform for the sport and its future.

“In recent years, the sport has taken transformative steps for the future which have included important and difficult structural changes which have been deemed necessary – even crucial – for the continued evolution and growth of Australian football.”

“Today’s announcement is a direct consequence of the work undertaken and is another step forward for the sport and one which will inject vital capital and ensure that our sport continues to thrive from grassroots through to the professional leagues,” Nikou, said.