Business line-backers

The US National Football League is making a play with private equity, planning to raise its own venture capital fund

As an incurable romantic, First Round is all about Corinthian spirit and Olympian ideals when it comes to sport. However, it is also painfully aware that top-level sport these days exists largely as a device to part very rich men (and, occasionally, women) from their hard-earned cash.

So we were not particularly surprised to read recently that the owners of the National Football League (which, to the uninitiated, is football American-style – or gridiron, as First Round’s grandpa insists on calling it) are in talks to set up their own venture capital fund. Not content with splashing zillions of dollars a year on men with an uncanny ability to don full body armour and run into each other at high speeds, the owners of the NFL franchises are apparently planning to chip in a million dollars each, and invest the proceeds in businesses and technologies connected to the sport.

It’s not totally clear who will actually manage this fund, but the owners apparently plan to work ‘in tandem’ with other VC firms – which presumably means piggy-backing on some of their expertise. Now, we appreciate that for most of these owners, a million dollars is the kind of sum they could lose down the back of the sofas without noticing anything other than a slight posterior discomfort when sitting down to watch the game. But the prospect of taking a slice of the upside from any business that relies on brand NFL for growth is presumably still quite appealing.