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MLS braces for backlash of Beckham departure
by Ridge Mahoney, March 6th, 2009 10AM

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The share-loan agreement between AC Milan and MLS regarding David Beckham will generate not a ripple effect, but rather a shockwave of changes and adjustments.

Still, don't expect Beckham, nor AC Milan, to directly bear the brunt of financial burdens his departure will impose. The majority of the costs instead will be borne, and balanced, by those entities soon to be without him.

The Italian club is already paying about $1 million for the two-month loan that expires next week, and can cover the rest of his time in Milan with another $3 million or so.

The rest of the money "owed" to AEG and the Galaxy will come from revenues generated this season through visits by foreign teams - both Inter Milan and AC Milan are discussing tours, and there will be some big crowds this summer for appearances by Mexican teams in friendlies and SuperLiga - as well. A complex formula has been negotiated to cover many contingencies, such as the San Jose Earthquakes, who came into the league under a condition that it would host two Galaxy games per season in 2008 and 2009.

For the Galaxy games last season, the Quakes used the Oakland Coliseum instead of Buck Shaw Stadium, and drew crowds of 39,872 and 26,071. Both 2009 visits are prior to the July 15 opening of the U.S. summer window (April 18 and June 20) and Beckham's official arrival, so team management will have to decide if they will still be played in Oakland as its schedule indicates.

Team president Michael Crowley, who is also president of the Oakland A's, has said the Coliseum will be used for a fireworks show coupled with a Quakes game around the Fourth of July irrespective of whether or not Beckham comes with the Galaxy. He has not booked the Coliseum for the Quakes' home game with Chicago, which last year drew 20,038. This year, the A's are scheduled to play Seattle at the Coliseum on the same day - and at the same time, 1 p.m. - that the Fire play the Quakes at Buck Shaw.

Beckham can leave MLS at the end of the season under an opt-out clause in his contract. Only if he wished to buy out his 2009 commitment to the Galaxy and stay with Milan indefinitely would he be compelled to shell out significant bucks.

According to a source, he has agreed to take smaller percentages of or forego entirely what he would have earned this season from sponsorship deals, endorsements, and other revenue-generating projects implemented by MLS and AEG. So there's money he has to give up, but he's not compelled to pay up, and frankly, it's worth far more to him to get out of his MLS deal as quickly as possible. According to another source, Milan is also making concessions regarding revenues and appearance fees as it negotiates with MLS and AEG.

Now, if his MLS contract is terminated by him implementing the opt-out clause at the end of the MLS season, what is to prevent him from heading straight to Milan as a free agent and playing right away? The FIFA transfer windows apply only to players currently under contract to clubs; a player out-of-contract is free to sign with any club, provided such a signing occurs before any league-imposed deadline.

The catch is this: Beckham is still on loan from MLS and the Galaxy to AC Milan. Under FIFA rules, a player can only be registered to play with one team, and only one team can hold his rights. If he is under contract, he can only be registered during the transfer windows (which are really registration periods) specified for that country and its leagues.

It gets more complicated in the case of a free agent. An out-of-contract player who wishes to sign and be registered outside of a transfer window must have been released or terminated within the specified transfer dates of most recent window of the national association he wants to join, or before that window opened.

In the case of Beckham wanting to play for Milan in, say November, he wouldn't be able to do so, unless somehow his MLS contract had been terminated prior to the close of the 2009 European summer window, which will probably be Sept. 1. So unless Beckham goes berserk and karate-kicks in the windows of AEG president Tim Leiweke's car and gets kicked off the Galaxy before the end of August, he can't play for Milan until the opening of the secondary European window Jan. 1, 2010. He can live in Milan and attend games at the San Siro and train with them every day, but he's not eligible to be registered and play until the window opens.

The same restriction prevented Brian McBride from playing with Chicago last year until the opening of the U.S. window even though he'd been released by Fulham when its season ended in May. Only if Fulham had agreed to release him prior to the close of the U.S. window (April 15 would he have been able to join the Fire and play right away, or at any time prior to the opening of the U.S. summer window.

By getting Beckham only from July until October, or maybe November, Leiweke and the Galaxy will certainly suffer some financial losses, but what they gain is time, time to work with sponsors and look for another major international star to fulfill that requirement.

No soccer player has his cachet and stature outside the world of soccer, of course. So what can Leiweke and AEG do in the short-term as well as the long-term? That is the topic of our next column.



0 comments
  1. Joshua Almanza
    commented on: March 6, 2009 at 3:53 p.m.
    The Galaxy heads just showed that they have no backbone. WAY TO MAKE THE LEAGUE PROUD LOSERS


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