Feb 07, 2014

    Becks' fuzzy Miami dream


    DAVID Beckham delivered a long-awaited but in many ways provisional commitment to Miami on Wednesday when he confirmed it as the future home of a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team that he will own - alongside partners not yet named - and run.

    The former England captain made the announcement during a somewhat giddy news conference, which was punctuated by vigorous chants from fans who have been without a top-flight team since 2001, when the MLS folded the Miami Fusion.

    The Miami team would be the 22nd in the MLS. The league has 19 clubs, and it will add two more - in New York City and Orlando - next year.

    But the news conference raised more questions than it answered. 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. The team have no name, and there seems to be only a vague notion of when the team might start playing in the MLS - perhaps in 2016, more likely 2017. Nor was it clear where the team might play, temporarily, until their own stadium is completed.

    However, Beckham assured the taxpayers of the city by insisting: "We don't want public funding. We will fund the stadium ourselves."

    His two potential partners in the venture are Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure, founder of the Miami-based wireless distributor Brightstar Corp, and American Idol producer Simon Fuller, both of whom, he said, were "very excited" about the project.

    Beckham had inserted the right to buy a team for US$25 million (S$31.7 million) into his original playing contract when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, but he had to exercise that option before Dec 31 last year. Wednesday's announcement merely confirmed that he had done so by the deadline.

    MLS commissioner Don Garber said after the briefing that "we want that stadium to be downtown", mentioning in particular a site in Miami's seaport near the arena where National Basketball Association champions Miami Heat play.

    When asked why he had chosen Miami, Beckham replied: "Miami is a vibrant city, a city with a lot of passion. It's ready for football, for soccer."

    More concretely, he said Miami had become a truly international city that was especially appealing to visitors and immigrants from Latin America and Europe. Those audiences, he said, flock to soccer games, as evidenced by huge turnouts for matches in recent years featuring teams like Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea and the national team of Brazil.

    Norb Ecksl, editor of Sunshine Soccer News, agreed, noting that the city had "sophisticated soccer fans".

    Beckham, 38, said he was "living the dream" by starting his own team. "For me, I wanted to create a team that we could start from scratch," he said. "I wanted to create a team that's very personal."