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SBD Global/October 31, 2013/Franchises

David Beckham Confirms Plans To Become Owner Of New MLS Team In Miami

David Beckham "has confirmed that he has plans" for a Major League Soccer club in Florida, according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. Beckham "has made no secret of his desire to set up a Major League Soccer franchise and Miami had long been the favourite to host it." Beckham, who had the option of "becoming an MLS team owner written into his contract when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy" in '07, will pay a discounted rate of £16M ($26M) to "start an expansion team, which he hopes will be up and running" by '16. The MLS has "yet to approve his plans" but MLS Exec VP Dan Courtemanche said, "We know that Miami is one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America. We have met with David Beckham regarding ownership of an expansion franchise, and we look forward to David one day owning an MLS club" (TELEGRAPH, 10/29). Also in London, Martin Booth reported "if Beckham does win the race to set up a team in Miami, he would then look to sell it to potential investors for almost three times that buying price." That $25M represents a "quarter of the price paid by the owners" of Man City, in "partnership with the New York Yankees, to launch New York City FC" in '15. No "top-flight MLS team has operated out of Florida" since '01, when the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny last existed, so "Miami is seen as an ideal location for an expansion outfit" (LONDON TIMES, 10/30).

MIAMI REACTS: REUTERS' Kevin Gray reported "a well-placed source in Miami's business community" said that Beckham's "representatives are already looking at sites for a purpose-built" football-only stadium. The source said, "They have people looking real hard. They want to be in the urban core." A fan group called MLS Miami Bid that has been "campaigning for a team to come to the city welcomed the news." MLS Miami Bid spokesperson Julio Caballero posted, "It's our time" on the group's Facebook page. Miami officials also "reacted cautiously to the news." Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement, "We've not had any official notification that David Beckham has chosen Miami for a new Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. That said, I join the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans throughout South Florida who are ready and eagerly waiting for an MLS team to be established in Miami" (REUTERS, 10/29). The BBC reported former Italy defender Alessandro Nesta "has welcomed Beckham's potential involvement in Florida." Nesta, a former AC Milan teammate of Beckham's, said, "Beckham is a bigger star. Everything he touches turns to gold. Now he [is to] build a new club in MLS, and for me it will be a big success: Miami is beautiful, the people are crazy about soccer -- and he's David Beckham" (BBC, 10/30).

BEN RUMSBY Q&A: Ben Rumsby of the TELEGRAPH weighs in on "the hows and the whys" of Beckham starting up a football franchise of his own:

Q: So, how much is this going to cost Beckham?
Ben Rumsby: The initial discounted fee for what is called an 'expansion franchise' is £16M but it will cost hundreds of millions more to build that franchise from scratch, particularly when it comes to recruiting players and possibly constructing a stadium. The Beckhams' personal fortune is around £200M ($321.3M) and he is therefore looking for serious outside investment, with interest said to be high. [Beckham's] business partner Simon Fuller is likely to be a significant shareholder.

Q: What happens next?
Rumsby: Tuesday was merely confirmation that Beckham had settled on Miami as the location for his proposed team. He now needs MLS approval to do so, after which he hopes to have a team up and running by 2016. 

Q: His team just walks straight into the MLS?
Rumsby: Essentially, yes. Football in America operates under the same franchise system used in most of its professional sports. The MLS are looking to expand from 19 to 24 teams by 2020 and Beckham's new venture would be part of that.

Q: Any other stumbling blocks?
Rumsby: Beckham is far from the only investor looking to set up an MLS franchise, with 12 rivals also keen to break into football in America. Most of them are going to be left disappointed, although it seems unlikely the former England captain will be among them (TELEGRAPH, 10/30).
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