11 January 2007

Beckham to LA Galaxy (for how much???)

This is why soccer failed in the US in the past. The documentary on the NY Cosmos and the NASL, Once in a Lifetime (which should be required viewing), showed exactly what happened the last time this was tried. And honestly, that's probably the best case scenario for the MLS if they continue on this path.

The Galaxy (AEG and MLS by default) are paying $250 million for a player only 31 and already past it, who has suffered his worst year in the sport this past year. A player who isn’t being offered a contract any longer than one year by European clubs, no matter the spin being put on it. And no matter the quotes about improving the visibility of soccer in America, this is a player who’s looking after his payday and his image rights, not his sport.

MLS has decided the best way to increase revenue is to try the Cosmos method, buy big names at the end of their careers and hope it pans out. Alexi Lalas said as much in November when this story first broke; he said, in his own words, he wants LA to become MLS’ first “super club.” Beckham supposedly brings the credibility that MLS wants so badly.

Well, this is going to sound egotistical, and I don’t mean it to be, but I watch soccer. I’m exactly who the MLS is trying to get to be a regular viewer. I’m fanatic, for lack of a better term, about European soccer, and yet fairly clueless (comparatively speaking) when it comes to the MLS. And yet, this brings no credibility to the MLS in my eyes. None.

What it tells me is they’ll spend any amount of money, stupid money in fact, in the hopes of fooling people into thinking they’re a big league. Well, soccer fans know David Beckham. They know he was a one-trick pony in his prime. They know he’s here for the paycheck and here for Hollywood. How that supposedly brings credibility, and more importantly, stability (which really is the most important thing, look at the history of failed leagues, and not just soccer, in this country) to the MLS is beyond me.

Who wants to take bets on how long the hype lasts? How long will the Galaxy see increases in revenue from jerseys and ticket sales? Will it be worth it? What happens when the hype subsides? Who’s going to be paying off Beckham’s contract when he’s not playing anymore, because with the amount of money involved, it seems it would have to be staggered over a number of years. Will Becks resist Hollywood’s siren calls that long?

It’s funny, but nowhere in this post have I asked how Beckham will fit with the Galaxy, how he will co-exist with Landon Donovan, so long used to being the biggest fish in his pond, or anything else related to on the field play. Because, honestly, that’s secondary to this deal. And, sadly, it’s probably secondary to this deal in the eyes of Lalas, AEG and MLS. Which is certainly not the way to make a better product.


Steel said...

Long time reader (and British-born, American-raised LFC fan), first time poster.

You're absolutely spot-on in your concluding thoughts about how the coverage of this move isn't considering the L.A. Galaxy itself and how Beckham will fit in with their roster.

So they've won some MLS cups in the past, but wasn't this past season their worst? If their acquiring Beckham was a gesture towards winning, I'm not certain that any great player -- even one with his abilities -- can magically give the team what it needs on the field. Off the field, yes: attendance will skyrocket, ticket prices may go up, jerseys will sell briskly, etc.

But during the games? The worst case scenario -- besides benching Becks -- is that the Galaxy will do what the Cosmos did initially: give the superstar the ball in the hopes that he'll put in the goal.

Granted, Pele did shine during his autumn years. But I'm skeptical that "staying power" means anything these days. Regardless of what athletic skill Beckham has, we'll all forget about him and the Galaxy in two or three seasons.

nate said...

From all I know, Frank Yallop is an excellent coach, but I fear LA will try and fit Beckham instead of vice versa. Which would be to their detriment, and to the detriment of the league for the precedent it set.

Another scary trend appears to already be starting.

Once Pele came to the NASL, others followed, and their contracts ended up hurting the league far more.

Less than 5 hours after the Beckham deal hits the papers, news comes out Davids is in talks too.

nate said...

So I was rash in bandying about the $250m figure. Salary paid by AEG/LA/MLS will *only* by the the $10m/yr range, plus an extra $10m/yr or so in club profits. The BBC has an excellent breakdown of where the money comes from.

I think the point is still valid.