Thursday 21 September 2023, 14:00

Angel City: More than just a football club

  • Kara Nortman and Julie Uhrman are among the founders of Angel City FC 

  • The club's success story was discussed at the FIFA Women's Football Convention in Sydney on the eve of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ final 

  • Ten per cent of sponsorship money generated goes to local community projects

“The Angel City story started with the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and the energy that comes from sitting in the stadium. I went to Vancouver and I felt childlike joy. I felt like I was 12 again. I was painting my face, and I wanted more. I went to find jerseys and merchandise and I couldn’t find it. I went to find content and I couldn’t find it. “I started asking around and to me it didn’t make sense that people would only want to watch women’s football once every four years. It kicked off a curiosity to ask a lot of questions and meet people around the world. The analogy I like to make, is like two billion people are watching the best Coca-Cola Commercial ever and then there’s no coke in the store for four years.

“It all started for me with that energy, and during the 2019 World Cup is when my friendship with Natalie (Portman) blossomed around the pay equity fight. When she said to me in 2019 “why don’t we start a team”, I needed someone to dream even bigger than I would dream. “This is the moment where the whole world is having their Natalie Portman moment. And for me, it’s been run entirely through these beautiful World Cups that I’ve had a chance to be a part of.” Kara Nortman - Co-founder of Angel City and Monarch Collective speaking at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention on 18 August 2023.

BC Place in Vancouver during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup

When one hears the name Natalie Portman, the first thing that certainly comes to mind is the actress who won an Oscar and the Golden Globe Award for her leading role in Black Swan. But what connects the Hollywood star with Kara Nortman and Julie Uhrman? Together they founded the women's football club Angel City FC, which plays in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).  

"It started with me, Julie and Natalie building a friendship and getting something going together. Three women in their forties who are intimately involved with each other's strengths and weaknesses and who really value diversity of thought, identity, etc," Nortman explained. Together with Uhrman, she travelled to Australia to speak about the success of Angel City FC at the FIFA Women's Football Convention.  

But what exactly makes this club, which sees itself first and foremost as a community, so special? Angel City FC supports social projects and has, among other things, committed to sponsors to invest ten per cent of their revenue generated, into projects for the local public. 

Julie Uhrman - Co-Founder and President of Angel City FC, Natalie Portman, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura and Kara Kara Nortman pose for a group photo

"We knew we had to build a connection with our community that was more important than the wins and losses. In fact, people still celebrate, even when we lose a game. They stay in the stadium and say, 'Ah, we'll get them next time', which is kind of incredible. “To get that kind of reaction, we had to build Angel City with our community. What is important to them? What are their values? And then we articulate very clearly what our values are, so that fans who believe in our values can come together. The other way to show up for the community is to try to make it better,” Uhrman said.

And, so, we created the Angel City sponsorship model, where 10 per cent of our sponsorship dollars go back into the community and we focus on three verticals: equity, essentials and education. I mean, football brings people together, sports brings people together. It’s a form of tribalism, right? You come together because you love football, you love Angel City, you love sport.”

Such principles are very much aligned with the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, where a new world champion, Spain, were crowned on 20 August. During the tournament, FIFA’s Football Unites the World campaign took the spotlight, alongside a number of other social issues that were promoted in-stadium, on the armbands worn by the respective captains, and on digital platforms.

"The World Cup is the most important platform in women's sport worldwide. The beauty of the Women's World Cup is that it gives you the opportunity to reflect on where you are now and where you were four years ago," Nortman said.

“I love healthy competition, I love loving all parts of the game. I also love what the World Cup has done in terms of my own personal growth mindset because I’m now trying to force myself to dream bigger, rather than feel comfortable for me, and the only place I’ve found that I can do that joyfully is soccer. And FIFA has been a big part of that.”

Achieving important social goals, such as gender equality, which is a fundamental human right and crucial for a peaceful and sustainable world, also plays an important role in this context.

"I think we are much closer, aren't we? If you play in women's football, you're already talking about gender equality. You’re already talk about equal pay. It's unfortunate that what’s synonymous with women and women's sport are the challenges of investing in equity and pay equity," Uhrman analyses.

"As you’re more successful on the pitch, as you’re more successful with the Women's World Cup - 2 billion spectators, record-breaking television figures, the first Women's World Cup ever to break even - when you see these successes on the commercial side, you know you're actually heading for success on the impact side," she concluded.

The FIFA Women's Football Convention took place in Sydney between 18-19 August. You can now find all keynote speeches and panel discussions available here.