Monday, January 15, 2007

Beckham to Los Angeles

I have seen David Beckham play. Up close. It was wonderful. He is a good player. He is not the greatest player who ever played the game, but he is a huge star and his presence exudes that stardom. His enthusiasm is infectious and his good looks are appealing. (See my article of March 18, 2005.)

In 2002 I started talking about David Beckham signing with the MetroStars, then the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in metro-New York.

Beckham and his wife, Victoria, are huge fans of New York City, and they are more New York than any other Europeans I can think of, including John Lennon and David Bowie.

The rumor I had heard those many years ago was that Becks was being offered an ownership percentage of the team, in lieu of salary, to keep the team under the league-imposed salary cap.

The Beckhams in New York. It has the sound of cash registers. It rings ka-ching over and over again. It sounds like music to a talent agent's ears. From New York, the Beckhams would conquer America, gracing the covers of GQ, Parenting, Architectural Digest, Teen Vogue;she with a TV show, or as a panelist on American Idol. Him on every sports show, charming and friendly in the face of unkind questions.

I'd heard that Beckham was searching for a town in Northern New Jersey or on Long island in which he could open the US branch of his soccer academy; but that he was unable to find a municipality interested in his venture. (See my article of April 15, 2005.)

When his search took him to Los Angeles, I knew he would never sign in New York, and the Bekhams would become Hollywood icons.

Then MLS re-wrote its rules to allow teams to spend beyond the salary cap. It was dubbed the "Beckham Rule" and it paved the way for the obvious.

Last week, it happened. David Beckham, currently a midfielder for Real Madrid of La Liga, signed with the L.A. Galaxy and will receive fifty-something million dollars a year for five years.

How does a team that sells twenty-something thousand tickets at twenty-something bucks a seat pay that salary?

Not with ticket sales, or their meager a television contract. It is likely that shirt sales will cover that salary. The number of Beckham shirts sold on Earth each year is astronomical, and those shirts will be sold irrespective of the team branded on the front: England, Manchester United, Real Madrid, or L.A. Galaxy. There are probably five million fans around the world with the word "Beckham" on their backs. Give Beckham five bucks a shirt, and you've covered most of the contract right there!

The Galaxy reported 2,000 season tickets sold in the week following the Beckham signing. That's excellent. I am hoping to re-subscribe to my New York season ticket this year.

This article from Associated Press, courtesy of the San Mateo Daily Journal, discusses the numbers in relation to merchandising American sports stars, but seems focused on just the United States and seems to miss the power of the international market (which for Americans doesn't really exist):

The new $250 million man?
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — David Beckham is big. But is he $250 million large? Bigger at the bank than Shaq or Kobe or A-Rod?

The world’s most recognizable soccer player agreed Thursday to a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy that Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that runs the team, touted as being worth $250 million over its five-year term.

The deal will make him the highest paid player in Major League Soccer, but reaching the total headline-making figure will hinge a lot more on Beckham’s prowess as pitchman than his play-making ability.

His contract with a team in a lower-profile league is a small slice of the deal — the really big money comes in expected commercial opportunities. Translation: There’s no guarantee he’ll get the $50-million-a-year average described in the announcement.

Marketing experts agree that though the 31-year-old tabloid darling isn’t a household name in the U.S., he’s better positioned than most superstar athletes to cash in off the field. Still, some doubt he’ll lure such a windfall in just five years.

"It’s overinflated," said Ryan Schinman of Platinum Rye Entertainment, an entertainment consulting company. "I just don’t see it."

Consider that, according to Forbes Magazine, in the year ending June 2006 the only active athlete in the U.S. to earn more than $50 million in salary and endorsements was Tiger Woods. Next in line: Phil Mickelson ($47 million); Kobe Bryant ($31 million); Shaquille O’Neal ($30 million); Alex Rodriguez and Tom Brady (each $29 million).

Beckham was estimated to have earned $27 million between his salary at Spain’s Real Madrid and his deals with Adidas, Gillette and others, according to Forbes.

Neither the Galaxy nor Denver-based Anschutz Entertainment Group replied Friday to requests for details on how the deal was structured. David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute, was skeptical about the financial estimates.

"It sounds like a great number to use in the media — one likely that is both cumulative, based on many of his relationships, as well one that includes incentives for milestones reached," Carter said.

There’s no question the signing created a buzz. The Galaxy said that within hours of the announcement the team sold 2,000 new season tickets. Their season begins April 8.

The team averages 22,000 to 24,000 fans in its 27,000-seat stadium in suburban Carson, although attendance was down last season when the Galaxy missed the playoffs.

"He’s one of the most marketable and highly identifiable sports figures in the world," said Kathleen Hessert, president of sports marketing consultant Sports Media Challenge.

Hessert saw evidence of Beckham’s appeal all over the Internet — the agency has tracked heavy interest in the soccer star, particularly among women, in blogs and chatrooms.

"If his signing with the Galaxy gets more women to buy tickets, that’s going to create a huge surge because where women go, they usually bring their families as well," Hessert said.

That could easily make Beckham a sought-after pitchman for companies marketing to soccer moms and their daughters, Carter said.

"He can be used to sell traditional consumer goods linked to sports such as footwear and apparel, as well as be compelling force to sell Happy Meals to families on their way (to) an MLS game," Carter said.

Beckham should also be able to parlay his celebrity status into a showbiz career. It doesn’t hurt that his wife, Victoria Beckham, became a celebrity in her own right as pop star Posh Spice.

Beckham is represented by arguably the most powerful Hollywood talent agency — Creative Artists Agency — and has ties to "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, who managed the Spice Girls. AEG owner Philip Anschutz also owns Walden Media, a film production unit specializing in family-oriented fare such as the "The Chronicles of Narnia" films.

"There could be a lot of interesting crossover opportunities that might get him closer to that ($50 million) number that you might not see typically with other athletes," said Derek Aframe, vice president with the Octagon sports marketing agency based in Norwalk, Conn. "Time will tell."

Toss in Beckham’s established Hollywood connections, such as actor Tom Cruise, and his prospects brighten — especially given that endorsement dollars tagged to a film can reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

Still, it’s unlikely any film or television deals would fetch Beckham seven figures or supplant his primary source of income as a soccer player, Schinman suggests.

"He’s not Denzel Washington making $25 million a movie," Schinman said. "He’s not even going to make $7 million in a film."

Associated Press Writer Jacob Adelman contributed to this report.

David Beckham is huge.

Beckham is bigger than Shaq and Tiger Woods and Barry Bonds. There is no comparison.

Beckham's market base includes Japanese teenage girls, homosexual men which make up five to ten percent of the world's population, boys of every nation except the USA, adults throughout the world, television viewers, movie makers and their audiences, pop music fans, other sports stars, the wives and children of other sports stars, everywhere there is Beckham.

Beckham is bigger than any sports star, and maybe even any movie star, that has ever graced our magazine covers.

When John Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, he was correct. And Beckham might be bigger than The Beatles and Jesus combined!

With Beckham in America, it might become impossible to count his legions, but the numbers are astronomical.

Will other international soccer stars follow?

Of course! That is why MLS passed the Beckham Rule.

MLS has been very careful, so far, to avoid the mistake of the old North America Soccer League (NASL), which went bankrupt in the mid-1980s by signing washed-up Europrans for very high prices. The New York Cosmos managed to fill Giants Stadium with Pele, and George Best built a retirement nest-egg playing for Fort Lauderdale.

MLS has grown itself inorganically, in a test-tube, as a single-entity league. And the experiment has been a success. Sure, MLS does not enjoy the viewership of the NHL, which makes it almost invisible; but there seems to be a plan in place that can succeed. And if the players cooperate, everyone might get rich from soccer in the United States.

Bloomberg discusses it:

Beckham Galaxy Move May Spur European Exodus to U.S.
By Ryan Mills

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- David Beckham's switch to the Los Angeles Galaxy may tempt other ageing European players to the U.S., offering an alternative to Middle Eastern leagues.

Beckham will definitely stir things up," Mick McGuire, deputy chief executive of England's Professional Footballers' Association, said in a telephone interview. "Players will go for the remuneration, the lifestyle and the opportunities on offer after they've finished playing."

Beckham, the 31-year-old former captain of the England national team, will join Major League Soccer in August, at the end of his contract with Real Madrid. His five-year agreement, MLS said, may be worth more than $250 million -- the biggest deal in team sports.

The move was eased by the league's decision to let each team pay one marquee player an unlimited salary from this year. While Beckham said three days ago his switch wasn't designed to hasten the flow of older talent from Europe's richest leagues, some players are considering their futures.

World Cup winners from Brazil's Pele to Germany's Franz Beckenbauer spent the tail end of their careers in North America in the 1970s and '80s. In the past decade, the Middle East has been the destination of choice for thirty-somethings.

Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina's record scorer, and French World Cup-winner Frank Leboeuf sought a final paycheck in Qatar. Portugal's 34-year-old Luis Figo, voted the world's best player in 2001, last week agreed to join Saudi Arabia's al-Ittihad from July in a contract that Agence France-Presse said may have been worth 4.5 million euros ($5.6 million).

Davids and Dallas

"There will still be interest from the Middle East, but western European players are definitely interested in the U.S.," Humphrey Nijman, who represents Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, said in a telephone interview. "You'll definitely see more going out there."

Edgar Davids, 33, who's played 74 games for the Dutch national team, is in talks to join FC Dallas when his contract with London's Tottenham expires in June, coach Steve Morrow said. Dallas is prepared to double his pay of 50,000 pounds ($98,000) a week, the U.K.'s Mirror newspaper reported.

Ronaldo, Brazil's 30-year-old three-time world player of the year, is also considering a switch to the U.S., Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported. France's Michel Platini, a former three-time European player of the year, said he had fewer options when he quit in 1987.

"I'd have been tempted to do the same thing, but there was no soccer in America when I retired," he said in an interview.

Pele and Crowds

Pele, who helped his country win three World Cups, came out of retirement in 1975 aged 34 to sign for New York Cosmos, helping the team draw crowds of 75,000 to Giants stadium. While Morrow expects Beckham will lure more fans, McGuire of the players' union said U.S. soccer has a way to go.

"Players won't be going for the quality of the league; that won't change overnight," said McGuire, who spent three months with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the late 1970s. "You're unlikely to play for your country again."

The MLS operates a system of centralized contracts and pays salaries up to a maximum $400,000. It would exceed that for anyone deemed worthy of a premium. Franchises will now pay that portion of a new player's salary above the cap.

Teams will initially be allotted one "designated player" slot, and they will be able to trade in one more. Teams that take on a second star will receive $325,000 toward his salary. The average wage in England's elite Premiership is 676,000 pounds, a sum that can double with bonuses, the Independent newspaper reported.


Not all MLS players approve of the change. Colorado Rapids' Terry Cooke, who was a trainee with Beckham at Manchester United, is concerned wage inflation may threaten the league. The North American Soccer League collapsed in 1985.

"Any player will get what he can get, fair play to him, but the way the league is structured is a disgrace," Cooke told the BBC Web site.

While the MLS is counting on Beckham to raise soccer's profile, foreign players can benefit from the relative anonymity of a sport that trails in television ratings. Top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods ranks 14th on Davie Brown Talent's list of celebrities that offer most value to advertisers in the U.S. Beckham, before his move, was 875th.

"America is a nice retirement home," Mel Goldberg, a lawyer who represents players including Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, said in a telephone interview.

The MLS doesn't want to be seen as a league where players come to top up their pensions and will use Beckham to attract youth to the sport, MLS deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said. The U.S. exited last year's World Cup without winning any of its three matches.

"This league is littered with players thinking it's just a vacation," said Galaxy General Manager Alexi Lalas. "That doesn't help the league or the teams and we soon get them shipped out."

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Mills in London at at

Last Updated: January 15, 2007 05:53 EST

Last year I'd heard that Ronaldo, athletic chubbiness personified, would leave Real Madrid and sign with New York, because he can barely play at the level of professionals in Spain, and he (like so many nouveau riche) loves New York.

Today's press insists that Beckham wants to leave Madrid today. Now! Wants to move to Los Angeles to start promoting his new team. This from the Independent Online in New Zealand:

Beckham wants to leave Madrid ASAP

Madrid - David Beckham is keen to leave Real Madrid immediately, according to reports in the Spanish and US media.

Sports daily Marca claims on Monday that Beckham and his representatives are looking for a way to rescind his contract with Real Madrid in order to move out to Los Angeles as soon as possible.

Initially, Beckham was going to see out his Real contract until June and move out to California in August.

However, most signs now point to Beckham leaving Madrid quickly.

Real would be keen to see the back of him
On the one hand, his new club, Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Major Soccer League want him in California as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Real would be keen to see the back of him, now that coach Fabio Capello has made it clear he will not pick him again.

Marca quoted MLS chief Don Garber as saying that "I am given to understand that David's lawyers are working to find a friendly exit from Madrid... We want to have him over here as soon as possible."

In addition, LA Galaxy head coach Frank Yallop wants Beckham in his squad for the start of the new Major League Soccer season in April.

Yallop's side start their season on April 8 when LA Galaxy visit MLS champions Houston Dynamo.

'Neither do I like the way that Beckham has behaved'
The former England captain shocked the footballing world last week by agreeing a five-year contract with the Galaxy.

The way in which Beckham announced the deal last Thursday has not gone down well in Madrid.

Capello said on Saturday that he had decided not to pick Beckham again "since he has announced that he is joining another club".

The Italian coach also stated that forwards Ronaldo and Antonio Cassano would neither be considered for selection, and that he was
going to build a new team in Madrid without most of the club's veterans.

On Sunday Capello's new-look team beat Zaragoza 1-0 at home, with Beckham looking on from the stands.

The tight win vindicates Capello's decision to get rid of Beckham and several other ageing "galacticos".

On Sunday, Real president Ramon Calderon backed up Capello, and made it clear that he also did not like the way that Beckham had announced his Galaxy deal.

"Neither do I like the way that Beckham has behaved," Calderon told radio station Onda Cero, "announcing a deal with another club by video conference".

On Monday television channel TeleMadrid claimed that Calderon "would not be opposed" to a deal whereby Beckham's Madrid contract was rescinded quickly.

Beckham has been of massive help to Real's global merchandising strategy, though his on-field contribution has been more modest.

Real's last success was the Spanish league title in June 2003, secured just days before Beckham's arrival.

Since then - despite Beckham's deadball skills and fighting spirit - the Spanish giants have won nothing, their most barren spell for more than 50 years. - Sapa-dpa

Published on the Web by IOL on 2007-01-15 12:09:18

©Independent Online 2005. All rights reserved. IOL publishes this article in good faith but is not liable for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information it contains.

His wife is already house-hunting, and I'm sure there is something in Malibu that will suit her needs. There should be no trouble affording a respectable home for the family of five. And if they choose a gated-community, I think they will meet any socio-economic or racial qualifications required.

It's really happening.

David Beckham is coming to play in the United States.

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