Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is adding his name to the growing list of believers in women’s volleyball as a founding partner of the Pro Volleyball Federation, the sport’s newest indoor professional league. The NFL star’s parents, Jimmy and Robin, are also investing in the league, which is set to debut in early 2024.
Financial details of his investment were not disclosed.
“My family and I are thrilled to put our support behind this great opportunity for world-class volleyball athletes,” Burrow said in a statement. “No one ever achieves greatness without first being provided an opportunity. Pro Volleyball Federation is opening the door, and we are excited to see these athletes chase their dreams and goals.”
The league’s other backers include former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, also a founding partner of the league, and Orlando Magic owner Dan DeVos, its first team owner. DeVos, who serves as chairman of DP Fox Sports & Entertainment, will own and operate a Pro Volleyball Federation franchise in Grand Rapids, Mich., during the league’s inaugural season. DeVos and his family also own the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Burrows’ investment comes as volleyball continues to gain major traction in the United States. Volleyball is now second only to track and field in terms of participation among girls, according to data released in September by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and participation numbers continue to increase.
Attendance and television viewership of the sport at the collegiate level have also soared: Last year’s women’s college volleyball championship match between Wisconsin and Nebraska saw a record audience of nearly 1.2 million viewers (a 119% jump from 2019) and set an attendance record on site. This fall, Wisconsin broke the regular season attendance record during its match against Florida when nearly 17,000 fans turned out to watch.
No women’s indoor pro volleyball league existed in the U.S. as recently as two years ago. Now, the Pro Volleyball Federation will enter the market as one of several domestic options. League One Volleyball (LOVB), which operates a network of youth volleyball clubs, recently raised $16.75 million in Series A funding to launch a professional indoor women’s league in the aftermath of the 2024 Paris Olympics. Both will contend with Athletes Unlimited, which started its volleyball league in 2021 and features a five-week season held at a single site, and is expanding its volleyball slate for 2023 with a spring college exhibition tour. More leagues still could come.
“It’s hard not to notice the explosive growth of the sport of women’s volleyball in the United States,” Jimmy Burrow said.
In addition to the Grand Rapids announcement, the Pro Volleyball Federation says it has already identified ownership groups for four additional franchises as it looks to establish clubs in volleyball hotbeds throughout the country. The upstart league hopes to have eight to 10 teams for its first season in 2024, which will feature 16 matches from February through May. Base salaries for its players will start at $60,000—in line with first-year salaries in the WNBA and nearly double the NWSL’s 2023 minimum base salary ($36,400). Veteran athletes could take home six figures. Revenue sharing is also part of the league’s plans.
Co-founded by sports consultants Dave Whinham and Stephen Evans, the Pro Volleyball Federation is in talks with both national and local broadcast as well as streaming partners ahead of its inaugural campaign.