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Beckham: 'We don't want public funding'
by Paul Kennedy, February 5th, 2014 12:31PM

TAGS:  david beckham, mls, soccer business


[MLS EXPANSION] Yes, David Beckham has his MLS team. And, yes, MLS is coming to Miami. But beyond that, there were few answers to come out of Wednesday's announcement in Miami attended by Beckham, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez.

The pep rally underscored that Beckham, who exercised his option to purchase an MLS club that was included in his contract with the league when he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, was still seeking investors, and that they'll need to come up with a chunk of change for what will have to be a privately funded stadium.

"We don't want public funding," said Beckham. "We'll fund the stadium ourselves. It's something where we have worked hard to get this stage, to fund it ourselves."

His business partners in Miami Beckham United include longtime advisor Simon Fuller as well as Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure, who is the owner of global wireless distribution firm Brightstar and has sought to bring a team to Miami for several years, but Beckham said the next step was to find the "right partners and right investors."

Miami-Dade County has given Gimenez the authority to negotiate with Miami Beckham United on a site for the stadium, though Beckham said they were at the stage of negotiating the process of negotiations.

According to media reports, Beckham's MLS group has identified the southwest corner of PortMiami -- withing viewing distance of Perez Art Museum Miami, where Wednesday's press conference was held -- as its preferred site for the stadium though it is looking at other sites that may have more political support.

"The people of Miami deserve a stadium they are proud of, a stadium that is in great place," said Beckham. "It is important we are downtown."

There is not just strong opposition to public support of the financing the construction of a soccer stadium, one of the key issues in any negotiations will be the terms of a lease arrangement Miami-Dade County strikes with the soccer group. There will be strong political pressure to strike a deal that requires Miami Beckham United to pay fair market value for any lease, not a sweetheart deal filled with tax breaks as is often offered sports clubs in stadium lease arrangements.

No timetable for getting the stadium project completed was announced.

"Once we have a site, once we work with the mayor, the commissioners and the city," said Beckham, "we'll be quick. Hopefully."

Nor was there any announcement on when the Miami team would start play in MLS and whether it would begin play in a temporary stadium, like New York City FC will do in New York, where it faces many of the same political hurdles to get a soccer stadium built in an urban area.

NYC FC and Orlando City will be MLS's 20th and 21st teams, both beginning play in 2015. Miami would presumably be the 22nd team to start play, though other cities are actively bidding to be included in a 24-team league Garber envisages for 2020.

A soccer stadium has been the sine qua non for MLS returning to South Florida, where it left after the 2001 season.

"We can't go to Miami without the right stadium solution," Garber said in December. "David understands that, the city understands that."

A solution is still not in place, though MLS has gone ahead and awarded Beckham the rights to a Miami team. Garber at one point in his remarks added a qualification to the proceedings, "If we can get this project over the goal line ..."

Beckham, for his part, is confident the project will be a success.

"We have answers," said Beckham. "We are honest people."

  1. Zoe Willet
    commented on: February 5, 2014 at 10:17 p.m.
    I'm so glad that Beckham realizes the importance of locating a stadium in town. In Chicago, the Fire's stadium is in the SouthWest suburbs, quite inaccessible. Were it not for that, I would attend games, but I am on the NE side, as far away as possible!
  1. Rene Guerra
    commented on: February 6, 2014 at 2:36 a.m.
    This Beckham is as an astute businessman as he was a footballer. He has keenly perceived the enormous potential that football (no, not the one played with the hands and armor --which when invented in circa 1823 with the name of "ball-own" at what now is Princeton University as a variation of Rugby, in turn a derivation of football, in turn invented by the Chinese about 5,000 years ago-- but the real football, the one played with the feet)has in America. with Beckham's franchise there will be a total of 22 teams in the MSL, thus becoming the larges league in the World,and with the franchises coming up in Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota and New Mexico, the MLS will be huge. But size is not the defining parameter; quality is the parameter here. Hence, the MLS (and the US Soccer Federation) should use as a template the quality football played by Barcelona: possession of the ball, short, crispy and below-the-knee passes, and the rest of bells and whistles. That's the football that fascinates fans. The traditional European kick & run football is more athleticism than football, for if one wants to see athleticism, one go watch track & field competences.

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