Gotham FC bolsters female-led front office with key new recruit

For Andrea Pagnanelli, his new job is “a dream job”.

The former college footballer had wanted to work in the sports industry for years. This became apparent to her while a student at Brown University, where she played Division I football. Her assurances that this was the right career path only grew with each job.

Now, after 15 years between various roles including the NFL, NBA and MLS, she is taking on a new challenge as the commercial director of Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I have the luxury of having a job where I don’t need an alarm clock,” Pagnanelli said. “I can get up every day and walk into Gotham Zoom or a new office space for meetings with teammates and I know that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.”

Pagnanelli started his role earlier this year and got off to a flying start.

Since joining the female-led front office in Gotham, the franchise has signed a major technology partnership with blockchain company Algorand – the company’s logo will be featured on Gotham jerseys for the 2022 season. the team welcomed two new female minority owners to the franchise, which is part-owned by Tammy Murphy and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“It reminds me of a lot of other roles I’ve had in more startup space,” Pagnanelli said of his new job. “We’ve been hiring a lot – doubling our staff on the front office side and really making sure we have the fundamentals in place to support our growing fanbase, as well as our growing number of sponsors.”

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Pagnanelli joins Gotham at a time of growth for the team and in the women’s sports industry in general. The timing, she said, couldn’t be better. What really drew her to the team was how the leadership seemed willing to provide the tools needed for continued growth.

“I’ve spent 15 years in the front office of sport understanding what to do, what not to do, how to build marketing into sports engines to make sure we’re going to be successful,” said she declared. “And I think a lot of my reasons for jumping into [at Gotham] was, we were going to have the necessary resources from the top down – from the ownership down – to implement the tools to be successful.

Last season was historic for Gotham, for both planned and unforeseen reasons.

In April 2021, the team announced a rebrand that retired its former Sky Blue FC brand, replacing it with its current NJ/NY Gotham FC identity. A few months later, the team announced the abrupt firing of former general manager Alyse LaHue. The three-year-old chief executive was quickly replaced in August by Yael Averbuch West – a former professional football player who was Sky Blue’s first-ever draft pick and one of the founding members of the Players Association of the league.

Those tumultuous months didn’t stop Gotham from ending its season in November with its first playoff appearance since 2013. The team fell to the Chicago Red Stars 1-0 in a heartbreaking quarterfinal game.

This season, the team is 1-2-1 so far in the Challenge Cup, an annual pre-season tournament that started in March. Gotham will face the Washington Spirit on April 17 at Red Bull Arena once championship competition resumes after a brief international break.

An immediate goal for Pagnanelli would be to fill Gotham Stadium in Harrison to capacity, while laying the foundation for the franchise’s long-term success through strategic partnerships. In addition to the new deal with Algorand, Pagnanelli said, “we have a few more that we’re going to announce.”

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It helps that Pagnanelli is no stranger to the New York and New Jersey sports market. Although she started her career with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, she later accepted a front office role with the New York Jets of the NFL. The franchise promoted her to group sales manager when she was 23, making her the youngest group sales manager in the league.

In 2015, Pagnanelli, then 28, was named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” for her work at Relevant Sports – a job she landed after working for the Jets and creating her own own company, LeapSeats, an in-place seat upgrade app. for fans.

Pagnanelli, however, credits her Jets gig with setting her on the career path that led her to Gotham.

“Most of my career has been about looking for opportunities that were more entrepreneurial. I think I found my love for it when I was at the New York Jets,” she said. “I was asked to create our group sales department from scratch, and that’s when something happened and I knew I wanted to be a builder in the sport – so I started looking for opportunities where I could bring a lot more process across the board.

“This [role at Gotham] is my first real opportunity to take advantage of all these best practices and continue to help develop women’s football, which is on a great trajectory at the moment,” she said.

Prior to joining Gotham, Pagnanelli served as executive vice president of venue and event strategy at MLS’s Los Angeles Football Club. At Relevant Sports, she was responsible for the growth of the International Champions Cup, an annual club football tournament.

Her appointment with Gotham marks the first time Pagnanelli will return to women’s soccer in a professional capacity after playing soccer since she was 4 years old.

The time is also right, as women’s sports and the National Women’s Soccer League continue to grow.

“We’re seeing continued investment — not just from our side in Gotham, but other teams new to the league,” she said. “As long as we’re doing what we need to do at the front office in Gotham, we’re going to continue to help grow the league as a whole.”

“I love what I do,” she added with a smile. “I wish I had more sleep, but other than that, I think that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.”

Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @melanieanzidei

Lance B. Holton