Monday, January 15, 2007


Stories from Stateside, Part 1

David Beckham’s recent, sensational decision to join the Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the current European season has shifted much attention in the football world towards the United States. In the last few days we’ve heard that Edgar Davids, the out-of-favour Spurs midfielder, is being courted by another MLS club, FC Dallas.

All thanks to the passing of the Designated Player Rule, now known as the Beckham Rule, in the US.

It might be salutary to take a closer look at the changes occurring in US football, and at the structure of the MLS itself, which has many parallels with the fledgling A-League.

The MLS has been struggling financially since its inception. Teams have folded, attendances have been middling to poor, and salaries, particularly for the “roster” players, are often abysmal.

Yet recently there have been a number of changes for the better. One is the introduction of soccer-specific stadiums, a long-term goal for the league which finally seems to be bearing fruit. Another is the signing of a recent TV deal, similar to last year’s windfall agreement in Australia, which guarantees significant revenue (and exposure) in the years to come.

Then there’s the Beckham rule.

Basically, the new Beckham Rule permits the signing of what we would call marquee players. In the US, it is the league itself, rather than the individual clubs, that negotiates contracts and pays player salaries. Until now, a salary cap of approximately US$2 million has been enforced for each club, although extra money from sponsorships and the like has sometimes not been taken into account.

A set amount of money from the income of the new marquee players will still fall under the cap (unlike in Australia), with pay cuts inevitably resulting. However, the initial signs are that the league will increase its revenue significantly with Beckham’s arrival; although he is not to appear until halfway through the 2007 MLS season, LA Galaxy season tickets have been selling like hotcakes (it’s worth noting, however, that their stadium holds only 27,000). This should eventually trickle down to the players, one hopes.

More to come in Part 2.

It is a shame Sydney FC just missed out in signing Beckham...

In reality, I think L.A. are going to get hosed on this deal. Beckham is the worst person to bring in if you want to get more people following the sport.

I can't imagine many Americans warming to him.
I can't help but think of the effect Romario had on Adelaide. Having brought in a highly-paid player who the rest of the team tried to play for sent Adelaide's season into disarray.

Further, I am not sure how happy Beckham's future team-mates will be at changing their game so that Beckham has a chance to shine - which is what he would be paid for. Especially considering the minimal salary his team-mates would be on...
I didn't know about the centralised contracting system, but I was aware of the draft. I'm off to do a bit of research.

It seems strange but with contract approvals here handled by the FFA, its only a few steps more in control.
I can't imagine many Americans warming to him.

Ah, but what about people from LA? The US is pretty celebrity obsessed (as sadly, we are) and I reckon combining sport and celebrity might work there.

Following football is a different matter though. I do wonder how many fans will stick around once Beckham retires or becomes old news...
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