Beckham, MLS' Garber Announce Miami Expansion Club, Leave Stadium Unanswered
MLS Commissioner Don Garber yesterday announced that David Beckham will get an expansion franchise in Miami -- "if Beckham and his investors score a new stadium," according to a front-page pice by Patricia Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. Plans for the franchise will not "be made final" until a facility is in place -- "probably not for months, if at all." The team most likely "wouldn't start playing" until '17. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez welcomed Beckham at yesterday's press conference and "pointed to five county commissioners in attendance as evidence that there is some political support for a new stadium." Beckham's "preferred site for a 25,000-seat stadium" is the southwest corner of PortMiami. Beckham said, "We don't want public funding. We will fund the stadium ourselves." Mazzei reports Beckham if successful would "become the first former MLS player to join the ownership ranks." His investors include XIX Entertainment Founder Simon Fuller and Brightstar Communications CEO Marcelo Claure. Miami's previous MLS club, the Fusion, folded in '01 "in part due to poor attendance," and even with Beckham's "star power, a new team remains risky." Fans in South Florida are "notoriously of the fair-weather variety." Beckham said that soccer "can succeed because a stronger MLS has grown steadily since the Fusion's demise," as has Miami, which has "become younger and more international" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/6). Beckham appeared on NBC's "Today" to discuss the deal, and NBC's Matt Lauer asked, "Do you think you have the star power, even from the sideline, to fill those seats down there?" Beckham: "The league, the people, the city is ready for this now. ... It was a shame that obviously the last team folded but the city is a lot more prepared for a soccer team now." He added he will be a hands-on owner, as that is what he believes "makes a successful owner" ("Today," NBC, 2/6).
KNOW YOUR MARKET: Garber said that he was "confident if a stadium deal gets done, Miami-area residents will rally around the team." He said, "We always felt that there was a groundswell of support for MLS. You need a great ownership group, you need a committed leader and owner, you need the support of the public sector and you need to have a great stadium. If we get all that done, we'll have no issues whatsoever building a fan base, and these guys will be the core of it" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/6). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes there is "a lot of work" for Beckham to do, and he "might start with understanding South Florida as a sports community." The "one-night summer exhibitions that sell out Sun Life Stadium won't necessarily translate to 25,000 fans at an MLS game." Hyde: "That doesn't mean it can't work. It just means a realistic understanding of the time and place has to be part of the homework" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/6).
ARE WE THERE YET? In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis writes if there "was a surprise" yesterday, it was "how much has to be done before the yet-to-be-named team plays its first game." Beckham said that he is "still recruiting investors" to make a privately-funded stadium happen. He said, "I think people maybe were hoping we were going to have the team name, hoping we were going to have the stadium locked down. Those things take time. The first big decision we have to make, which we'll make in the next couple of months, is the right investors. We have a lot of good people that are coming in to be a part of this and want to be large investors in this franchise." Beckham added of the club's name and colors, "I know how important names are to the culture, to the fans, and it's got to be right. The colors are going to be very vibrant. It's Miami, they have to be" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/6). In N.Y., Nick Madigan writes the announcement "raised more questions than it answered," as there is "no deal in place for the financing to build a stadium, or to buy or lease the land on which to put it." It also was not clear "where the team might play, temporarily, until its own stadium is completed" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6). SOCCER BY IVES' Franco Panizo wrote it was Claure who "provided some answers and insight" into the franchise's future. Claure: "I think three years is the objective because we're creating a soccer team from scratch. We have to pick coaches, we have to involve the community, we have to pick a name, pick a jersey, we have to convince big-name players to come play for us" (SOCCERBYIVES.net, 2/5).
STAR GAZING: In London, Gordon Tynan notes Beckham has "held talks with his friend," Heat F LeBron James, about "investing in the franchise" (London INDEPENDENT, 2/6). Garber said that the "importance of having Beckham as a team owner goes beyond his simply being a global celebrity." He added of Beckham, "To have him transition to owner allows us to think about our league in a different way. He's a serious guy who's not doing this for a vanity play. He's got the game knowledge, the players' respect and connections with global corporations." Fuller said that what "appeals particularly to Beckham about this Miami venture is that it is a blank slate." Fuller said, "Here David can pick the team colors, the jerseys, he can build something that expresses what he loves about the game" (USA TODAY, 2/6). Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN's Richard Luscombe notes Beckham "dangled the prospect of superstars joining" the franchise. Beckham said, "Who wouldn't want to play in Miami, live in Miami? I'm getting messages saying, 'When's it happening? When can we get there?' I know this city is ready for football" (GUARDIAN, 2/6).
RULED OUT: In London, James Orr notes Beckham has "ruled out one man to manage the team" -- former EPL club Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson (London INDEPENDENT, 2/6). Garber said that it was "unlikely that a MLS team would play" temporarily at Marlins Park (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/6).