On Wednesday, David Beckham shakes the soccer establishment when he turned his back on Real Madrid, who is the world’s most exciting football club and also signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
For a decade the tremors of that deal have crashed through Major League Soccer and Tim Leiweke, the man who arranged what is perhaps the most significant signing in sports history, forecast the charismatic former England captain quickly be making shockwaves again – as an owner.
Leiweke said to Reuters, who is Beckham’s partner’s in trying to bring an MLS team to Miami “David was an impact moment for the league, but it wasn’t our birth, and it didn’t save us from death, but David allowed us to realize how big we could be.”
“We went from surviving to conquering and David Gave us that reputation, that belief and from that point on there was no question this league was going to succeed. But as big an impact as he had 10 years ago I continue to predict he is going to have as big an impact as an owner.”
Certainly, Beckham’s comes out as the potential owner of a Miami-based MLS franchise dogged by setbacks has been muted compared to his rock star arrival in Los Angeles in 2007.
Leiweke, the then-president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Galaxy’s corporate parent, said at the time of the signing, “David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally.”
The five-year deal to lure Beckham to the United States, one estimated at $250 million and including commercial opportunities and the rights to buy an MLS expansion team at a steep discount, was by most barometers worth every dollar.
He played his final game in a Galaxy jersey in 2012 MLS was no longer regarded as soccer’s comfy retirement home and five years on the Beckham effect is still being felt as the league pushes forward with expansion plans.
In the first season, Beckham’s average attendance at MLS games was 16,770 and the last season it jumped to 21,692. This season will feature 22 MLS teams, up from 13 in 2007.
Toronto FC, which debuted in 2007, paid a $10 million expansion fee. The next round of expansion will be a minimum of $150 million per club while Beckham gets his for $25 million.
However, Miami team has no stadium and also no name what it does have is the cache behind the Beckham brand that Leiweke trusts once operating will make the South Florida club a magnet for some of the soccer’s marquee names.
Leiweke asked “Is there anyone who is going to be better in the living room than David Beckham recruiting the next David Beckham. To me he can affect the league in a lot of ways and we are now about to see him and the impact on the league he is going to have in a business suit instead of a jersey.”
“He can be just as dynamic and just as powerful because for the great players of the world we have the world’s greatest recruiter now in David, he’s an owner. The 10 years have been great but I don’t think his work with our league is done by any means or capacity.”
But there might never be another signing which will impact a league the way Beckham did Leiweke said “We have arguably one of the best brand ambassadors in the world with David, we are going to aim extremely high. We are going to push aggressively. As an owner David is going to continue to revolutionise our sport and our league and I think we are only getting started on our potential to where this league is going to go in the next 10 years.”
He added “We aspire not only to be the best club in Major League Soccer we want to be the best club in the Americas and we think Miami has that culture and that tradition that allows us to think that way. What I can promise you is Miami is going to create waves.”