By Ridge Mahoney
The David Beckham Academy in Carson, Calif., has closed. Good riddance.
Selling jerseys and tickets and perfumes and sunglasses in the USA as a sleek global icon is one thing, traipsing around a field during perfunctory appearances to thrill children whose parents are shelling out hundreds of dollars for a few hours of luxurious surroundings is quite another.
Bad enough were shameless shams such as “David Beckham’s Soccer USA,” a painful and thankfully short-lived television program fashioned on the icon’s irresistible, immutable screen appeal, or as it turned out, lack of same. There are plenty of vacuous exploitation programs produced by American companies already filling the airwaves and computer screens, thank you very much, so this blatant Brit-driven infestation of the U.S. market had to go down, and by god it did!
The last thing this country needed was this Academy, capitalized or not, no matter whose name is attached. MLS teams have academies, foreign teams have academies, and there are academies cropping up all over the country.
Some do tours, some do tournaments, and some do little more than collect more money than they can by calling themselves camps, which in many cases is what they are. Some do what they purport to do, which is accelerate and refine a young player’s development.
Academies are big business and it’s not fair for a big wheel like Beckham to cast his vast shadow over the American soccer landscape, which is already choked by academies, and shroud those operations lacking such a worldwide mega-star.
Dumping the Academy – which I’m sure was due to logistical problems and philosophical differences, not any financial matters -- is another shining example of his commitment to American soccer, like going on loan to Milan so as to avoid playing for the Galaxy as much as possible. (Milan pays for his services, saving MLS that portion of his salary, so it’s a win-win.) The Academy’s demise is also another glowing moment for 19 Entertainment, his representative agency.
By cutting loose his Academy he won’t be encumbered to a particular city, so when he exercises his option to own an MLS team, as of course he must since he’s said he’d like to some day and he’s nothing else but a man of his word, he doesn’t necessarily have to entice his partners – the ones who will actually pay up – to buy the Galaxy. He didn’t buy out his MLS contract, as he could have done in the fall, to play for Milan full-time and thus should have plenty of money to flash at his partners to lure them into MLS.
Without such burdens as Academy appearances or lame TV shows or costly contract buyouts to bother him, Becks should be primed for a breakout half-season in July when he comes back to MLS. Can’t wait!