Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Stories from Stateside, Part 2

In his latest dispatch from the States, World Soccer’s American scribe Paul Gardner has welcomed the Beckham Rule. Not so much on the grounds of increased exposure, but because, he believes, an influx of foreign stars will give the quality of the league a fillip. He cites the recent MLS Cup final between eventual champions Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution, which he describes as a lousy, vapid and boring game.

I’m not sure he will be proved right. The A-League’s experience with marquee signings has been decidedly equivocal, and the previous spells in the MLS of foreign luminaries such as Lothar Matthäus and Luis Hernández – a star for Mexico at the 1998 World Cup – have been largely disappointing.

David Beckham’s lack of first-team action at Madrid, his disputes over image rights, and his wife’s desire to mingle with the Hollywood crowd have surely been the salient factors behind his decision to cross the Atlantic in August. He will generate interest, for sure; but in the long term, will it be worth it?

Gavin Hamilton, WS's editor, has poured some cold water on his colleague's enthusiasm, suggesting (not without reason) that the LA Galaxy's relative lack of "brand" could militate against the generation of sufficient income to cover the significant, erm, expenses of Beckham's stay in the US.

Two other small points about the MLS which are relevant to the A-League:

- After ten years of existence, only now is the MLS putting a youth system into place at club level. The clubs have refrained from venturing into youth development in the past partly because of the bizarre draft system, which ensures that clubs would not be able to hold on to young players they have developed. But there is a financial angle as well, and the fact that, as mentioned in Part 1, younger players are receiving only subsistence wages should give Australia’s youth league blatherers something of a reality check.

- The MLS has yet to put in place any promotion/relegation system, and is not likely to do so in the foreseeable future. Although I believe that such a system can be workable in Australia, and may even be a necessity once the league expands, there are serious obstacles.

I have seen in a couple of different places it being reported that Beckham's $250 million is just a talk up from his agent. His true salary from L.A. is around $10 million per year and the rest is from potential (or already signed) sponsorship deals.

I think the draft system and that American footballers have to go to University (College) before playing professional is the best system around. Sure it's not the best for making players better but at least it promotes education.

Most footballers are not the smartest people in the world (probably worse than even League players when it comes to that).Because personally I think they get exploited at a young age to only think about playing. Getting a degree before they play professionaly is the way it should be.
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