David Beckham has returned to football. The 39-year-old, who retired from his professional career at Paris St. Germain after 21 years in May 2013, will fund his own team in the Major League Soccer (MLS). “Becks” will thus become a football entrepreneur in the professional league currently consisting of 19 clubs from the USA and Canada. Beckham had played with Los Angeles Galaxy for five years until December 2012 and won the 2011 and 2012 championship titles with the club. Now Beckham will switch sides.
The Englishman, who is one of the mega-stars of world football, will become a manager.
He announced on Wednesday, February 5, 2014, that he wants to fill a blank space on the MLS map in Miami, the metropolis of the sunshine state of Florida. “I want to build up a team from the base. That’s my personal goal”, he disclosed at a large media conference at an arts museum in Miami. “The city is ready for football”, said Beckham, who had first indicated a year ago that he fancied funding a club in Miami.
However, the team will not start playing until 2016 at the earliest, perhaps even a year later. For first a stadium with about 25,000 seats must be built. Beckham is looking for investors. Though the retired midfielder, who won 14 titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, LA Galaxy and Paris, wants to put his own money into the project, he is also looking for the support of interested, well-off parties. Beckham, very popular in the USA, has already been assured of back-up from important officials. Don Garber, the MLS Commissioner who conducts the business of the League, attended the media conference in front of about 300 people, as did Carlos Gimenez, the Mayor of Miami Dade County, who showed great enthusiasm for Beckham’s project. Gimenez indicated that he would support the search for an ideal site for the stadium.
Beckham can revert to the advice and influential contacts of his manager Simon Fuller. The 53-year-old Briton is a well-known, very successful TV producer (casting US TV’s American Idol) and in addition is also manager of Beckham’s wife Victoria, formerly known as “Posh” in the pop band Spice Girls. Fuller has influential contacts in show business, as well as being marketing strategist with Honda’s Formula 1 team. Beckham might have already found a financial backer, stating that he is working with the Bolivian telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure.
As the MLS is organised on the franchise principle, a lot of capital will be needed. For funding a club, or rather receiving the licence from the MLS, an average of around 25 million dollars has been needed in the past. Allegedly the most recent franchisees reached 40 million. Additionally a stadium of a higher standard must be built. Garber said the arena must be “world class and an incredible showcase, beautiful and special for the city”. The fact that there has been certain scepticism about Beckham’s plan being possible is due to the extensive sporting competition in Miami.
Miami Heat is a top club in basketball, but even when they won the US championship in June 2013 they failed to sell all tickets for the final series in their 30,000-capacity arena. Miami Dolphins are a major force in American football, Miami Marlins the baseball team, while Florida Panthers play in the national ice hockey league. Professional football, however, has failed to find success in the region on previous attempts. Miami Fusion FC, based in Jacksonville, ceased playing with a loss of 15 million dollars in the competitive years from 1999 to 2001.
But since then the interest in football nationwide has increased, as did the number of immigrants into the thriving region of Miami. Last summer 67,000 fans watched Real Madrid defeat Chelsea 3-1 in Miami; 71,000 people attended the encounter between Brazil and Honduras. In England there was speculation that Beckham could entice former Manchester United team-mates such as Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to Miami, or former national team-mates such as Frank Lampard. Beckham, with 115 international caps and a promotions icon for several reputable companies which earn him many millions, still has numerous good contacts. After watching Miami Heat basketball matches from a front row seat, often alone or with his sons, he was seen conversing with superstar LeBron James. Beckham named him as a possible supporter.
But most experts consider the football project to be in good hands with Beckham, for he has proved both a successful football player and businessman. After the media conference, when Beckham visited a football school, his great popularity was clear. The crowds were so large that the visit had to be cut short. Some time will pass before the realisation of the project. Then the Beckham club could be the 22nd in the MLS. The MLS now boasts increasing support. Seattle have an average of more than 36,000 spectators. Next year, new clubs should be included, with New York City FC, an off-shoot of Manchester City, and Orlando City. With the latter club, Miami would then have a Florida competitor 380 kilometres away.