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David Beckham's dream ownership of MLS franchise met with fierce opposition in Miami

The former Manchester United midfielder is finding his value is not what it once was.

Image: Wilfredo Lee

IT’S THREE YEARS now since David Beckham made a high-profile public declaration of his intent to bring a Major League Soccer side to Miami.

As part of his MLS contract in 2007, there was an option which allowed him buy into a franchise for $25 million. And in 2014, he exercised that option.

But the dream is dying and the entire proposal has been met with vociferous criticism. At a time when MLS expansion has never been greater, it seems that not every one can be charmed by Beckham and his PR posse.

For a while it seemed like the Miami franchise could be up and running by 2018. But that proved far too optimistic a timeframe. No-one – not MLS and certainly not Beckham – want to raise a white flag just yet so there remains plenty of chatter about it.

The league remains committed to getting the deal done. A Beckham-owned team would be a massive coup while the Miami market is a potentially lucrative one. The city has been without a football club since the Fusion collapsed in 2001 and it seems strange that such a vibrant place with such a strong Latin culture is still without a MLS franchise. But everything rests on Beckham’s plans.

Beckham Miami Stadium Soccer Source: Lynne Sladky

Next year, another Los Angeles-based club – LAFC – will debut in the league, bringing the overall number of teams to 23.

There is still hope that Beckham’s will be number 24.

But the city’s decision-makers remain unconvinced. Three various stadium locations were pitched, challenged and successfully vetoed and the latest idea – to build the 25,000 stadium in Overtown, northwest of the downtown core – is also mired in complications.

Beckham’s team purchased six acres of privately-owned land for $19 million. But, they require three more. However, that other land is owned by the county and that means some intense lobbying and deal-making needs to happen. And earlier this week, some key political personnel weren’t exactly overjoyed at the prospect, despite the mayor admitting to being open to negotiation.

One local commissioner, Xavier Suarez, discussed the delays with advancing the conversation and how the land may be used for something more beneficial to affected members of the community.

Beckham MLS Soccer Source: Lynne Sladky

“How long are we going to negotiate for the use of that [county-owned land] before we decide that maybe that ought to be made available for some affordable housing?”, he said.

Are we going to wait for these folks forever before we use that property for something more?”

And there was another dissenting voice too - Commissioner Audrey Edmonson – who was irritated by the lack of updates from Beckham’s camp.

“Are they bringing a stadium there? I haven’t heard anything”, she said.

Edmonson is Overtown’s county commissioner so getting her on side is key. And while she has admitted that extra jobs for the vicinity would be a good thing, she’ll listen to constituents for guidance on the matter.

Beckham remains frustrated by the delays. His expertly-manicured, boy-next-door public persona took a hit last month when emails between him and his publicist were leaked. And, what they showed more than anything else is that he is used to getting what he wants and is apoplectic when that doesn’t happen.

The business world is cut-throat and ruthless. But it goes against the public-facing personality Beckham has painfully attempted to cultivate for the last 20 years. In interviews, at press-conferences, he is calm, measured, polite and generous. He will shake everyone’s hand, pose for countless pictures. At the official Miami announcement in 2014, Beckham was inundated with media interviews and instead of speaking with business outlets and pressing the flesh with key stakeholders and lobbyists, he was on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show discussing his Valentine’s Day plans.

Barclays ATP World Tour Finals - Day Five - The O2 Source: Jonathan Brady

He remains consumed by Brand Beckham and the importance of how he looks to other people. He can put his name to aftershave and H&M y-fronts but none it’s completely different when dealing with counsellors and commissioners in Miami-Dade county. They aren’t placated with a selfie. They, quite rightly, have no idea who Simon Fuller is. More importantly, they don’t care.

Beckham is now a retired athlete. The showbiz accompanied his arrival to LA ten years ago, though his relevance was already on the wane. But he’s now David Beckham, former footballer. He is slowly trying to push an MLS franchise he was gifted for a massively cut-price rate. Consider that investment groups are now lining up with $150 million to get their hands on a team. So, Beckham’s value is not what it once was.

Doors are not opening as easily as before. And he’s finding that out the hard way.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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