NWSL Roundup: Partnership with A+E Networks ends; Labbé to Courage

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — AUGUST 12: Stephanie Labbé, goalkeeper of Canada celebrates their victory after winning France after the match between Canada and France womens football quarter final for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 at Arena Corinthians on August 12, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Chicago, Illinois (February 21, 2019) — Two years ago, a groundbreaking deal occurred between the National Women’s Soccer League and A+E Networks to air a game of the week on Lifetime TV.

However, that three-year agreement has come to a halt a year early.

NWSL Roundup: Partnership with A+E Networks ends; Labbé to Courage

On Wednesday afternoon, the league and A+E Networks announced an amicable, mutual, parting of ways. The deal was much more than a TV agreement. With the deal, A+E Networks acquired equity stake in the league, becoming an ownership group. Meanwhile, the deal began the work of NWSL Media. Lifetime became an official league sponsor and the logo was tacked on jersey’s.

Meanwhile, according to a press release, Lifetime will still “continue to support the league through a sleeve sponsorship agreement.”

Amanda Duffy, NWSL president, and David Granville-Smith, COO and CFO of A+E Networks, spoke positively about the two-year venture.

“A+E Networks and Lifetime were proud to support the amazing athletes of the NWSL and to have produced a first-class Game of the Week production that highlighted their amazing talents,” Granville-Smith said. “We are excited to continue to support the league with the sleeve sponsorship in 2019 and look forward to seeing the NWSL grow in the years to come.”

Meanwhile, Duffy called the two-year sponsorship rewarding for the league, players, sponsors and fans.

“The continued support from Lifetime through the sleeve sponsorship speaks to the authenticity and strength of the partnership we forged during these past two seasons,” Duffy said. “[The] NWSL is a pioneering league, still in its infancy, as it builds and evolves to become the premier women’s league in the world’s most popular sport.”

According to the league, the schedule will be announced today for the 2019 season. Also, despite the agreement ending, NWSL Media will still exist to lead media efforts. Meanwhile, the NWSL has struck up a partnership with Yahoo! Sports to air regular-season matches.

Stephanie Labbé to sign with North Carolina

The defending champions just got an extra boost.

After the departure of Sabrina D’Angelo this offseason, the North Carolina Courage elected to sign another Canadian goalkeeper to their roster. Stephanie Labbé will be joining the Courage.

However, the deal has not yet become official, due to complications and waits, according to Paul Riley, Courage head coach. However, both Riley and Labbé have confirmed the news on their own social media accounts. Riley was the first to confirm the news, saying that he’s excited to have “such [a] quality goalkeeper and person on board.”

“I love players invested in process [and] drenched in idea of learning their craft,” Riley wrote on his Twitter account. “Steph will fit in fantastic with our environment.”

Labbé’s last tilt in the NWSL was with the Washington Spirit, from 2015-16. Labbé left during the 2016 season, citing mental health concerns and took time for herself. Meanwhile, she broke barriers by featuring for Calgary Foothills WFC, a men’s team in Canada. She made six appearances.

However, Labbé returned to Sweden in 2018. She began her career in Sweden, back in 2009, and spent time with two clubs until 2014. However, in 2018, she joined Linköpings FC where she made nine appearances.

Labbé joins a team that has a history of using two goalkeepers and not settling on one. Katelyn Rowland is the other goalkeeper on the roster. Rowland started in net during both championship matches for North Carolina in the last two years. She was also the starting goalkeeper for the Western New York Flash in 2016.

Riley, on his Twitter account, said Rowland and Labbe will be “brilliant” for each other.

“We always strive to get better,” Riley wrote. “We seek out risk takers. [In an] environment like this you won’t always come out on top but you will be pushed to your personal best everyday. You are responsible for your success everyday.”

Washington Spirit pick up a pair of Australians

The W-League season is over, but that doesn’t mean soccer is over for Amy Harrison and Chloe Logarzo. The two Australians have agreed to separate deals with the Washington Spirit.

Logarzo will be joining the club on loan from Sydney FC. The 24-year-old began her career in 2011 with Sydney FC, remaining with the club until 2015. She made 48 appearances, scoring 11 goals in that time frame. She has played all over Australia, also featuring for the Newcastle Jets and Blacktown Spartans FC.

Internationally, Logarzo has made 37 appearances for Australia, scoring six goals. She will be an option for The Matildas for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer.

Meanwhile, Harrison has signed a deal with the Spirit. The 22-year-old has spent her entire career with Sydney FC, beginning in 2012. She has made 43 appearances, scoring three goals. Harrison is listed as a midfielder, but can also provide defensive help. This is an area that Washington needs help with.

Internationally, Harrison holds eight appearances to her name for Australia.

“Adding two quality players of proven International pedigree like Chloe and Amy is huge for our club,” Richie Burker, first-year head coach for Washington, said. “Having spoken to both players regularly during this process, I know they are very excited to join us here in Washington — and I believe they will make a huge impact with our team and in our league.”

Washington had a handful of players feature in the recent W-League season, including goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who was on the winning Sydney FC team with her new Spirit teammates.

Jen Hoy re-signs with Sky Blue FC

For a club that’s trying desperately to keep players, Jen Hoy didn’t need much of an argument to remain a member of Sky Blue FC.

Hoy has re-signed with the club on a one-year deal. The 28-year-old made only four appearances for Sky Blue FC last year. However, with players packing their bags and heading overseas, she’ll likely get more playing time.

Hoy began her career with the Chicago Red Stars in 2013. While in the Windy City, she made 78 appearances and scored 15 goals. She spent the 2016-17 offseason in Australia, featuring for the Newcastle Jets 12 times, scoring five goals.

“Jen is the type of player that contributes both on and off the field,” Denise Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach, said in a press release. “In addition to her talent on the ball, her leadership and experience in the league is a huge asset to this team and we are excited to have her return for another year at Sky Blue.”

Hoy attended Princeton University, where she made 69 appearances and scored 35 goals for the Tigers.

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