David Beckham’s Miami MLS franchise is running out of false starts
Two stadium plans have fallen through because of politics – and people close to Beckham say that when a third is announced shortly it has to succeed
David Beckham with Noel Gallagher on the Graham Norton Show last month – but it has not been all smiles for the former England captain in Miami.
Kaká, David Villa and Robbie Keane may form part of the story in this newly started MLS season but there remains one notable absentee – and that is arguably the most high-profile football figure of them all.
David Beckham’s playing days may be behind him but his core involvement in a MLS franchise was still headline news when announced in the opulent setting of a Miami art gallery last February. When Beckham moved to the MLS with LA Galaxy in 2007, he smartly included an option in his contract that permitted the purchase of an expansion team franchise for $25m. This proved a seriously good deal, given the increase in values during the intervening years.
Eight years on, what hasn’t looked so clever is Beckham’s choice of Miami itself. Thirteen months after his grand announcement, and two failed site options later, this team still have no stadium to play in, let alone a name, colours and management. This wasn’t in the script, especially for an individual for whom everything would routinely fall into place more easily.
Questions are being asked, as to be fair they were by some at the outset, such as whether Beckham’s Miami plan is achievable. And if so, when?
This, it has to be pointed out, isn’t entirely the fault of Beckham and his partners, a possibly flawed location choice aside. South Florida and Miami particularly is known as awkward, cynical, routinely impossible political territory to navigate. Some, or perhaps most, areas would welcome a global superstar such as Beckham with open arms; not so here. His status makes no apparent difference at all.
If this scheme ultimately fails, Beckham would not be the first high‑profile figure to see a Miami plan crash because of the machinations associated with the local administration. “I wouldn’t want to call it a miscalculation,” said one source close to the Beckham camp. “But there was maybe a false perception at the outset, of who he is being able to have more influence than is actually the case.”
The former England captain’s strategy here is intriguing. There has been no attempt to sway politicians with public campaigns – perhaps owing to the realisation this would be a waste of time anyway – and no audible complaint about what barriers have appeared. In February, Beckham said he hoped for a proper announcement within a couple of months, adding that what has occurred so far has proved both “frustrating” and “hard work”.
A spokesman for Beckham’s MLS project insisted this week: “Things are progressing in Miami, and we are very much on track in our plans.
“David Beckham is very positive about the future of the club, and he continues to enjoy incredible support from the people in Miami. Right now, our focus is on identifying the location for a purpose-built stadium that will be the team’s permanent home.”
This is an upbeat sentiment; deliberately so, no doubt, but at odds with hitherto troubled reality.
The MLS itself has not responded to questions from the Guardian as to their thoughts on the Miami delay. It seems safe to infer they had another scenario in mind when accepting Beckham’s franchise plan. It may even be the case that the former England captain has only a set period in which to assemble the club.
The two stadium sites to fail – the first against a particularly tangled backdrop – were at the old Miami Port area and on Biscayne Boulevard, close to where Miami Heat play basketball. The second option quickly crashed after Miami’s mayor apparently took serious umbrage, to the point of insult, at a suggested rent of $500,000 a year.
“The next choice has to happen,” added the source. “There won’t be a fourth option. There won’t be another chance.”
From the MLS’s point of view, no stadium equals no club. Finding a home venue is that fundamental. It may be that a temporary stadium is found while another one is constructed – Florida International University’s site has been suggested for that purpose – but the league would be cautious about agreeing to such a concept.
“Right now, our focus is on identifying the location for a purpose‑built stadium that will be the team’s permanent home,” said the Miami Beckham United group. “Careful consideration will be given to FIU when we address the opportunities for a temporary facility.”
Miami Fusion, a team that lasted from only 1997 to 2001, could not reach agreement to play in the downtown Orange Bowl and instead made short‑term plans in Fort Lauderdale. Very short, as it transpired; something the MLS will bear in mind. There are, though, more recent examples of temporary stadiums being approved whilst another is under construction.
There is no sense that Beckham is in any way scaling back his efforts or his commitment to making this franchise work. He retains a lead negotiator – a New York attorney named John Alschuler – as well as lawyers and public relations representatives in Miami. Nobody with a close eye on events has sensed that Beckham has been sufficiently wounded by delays to abandon his dream entirely. Albeit there will be a financial outlay for Beckham and his partners now, the bigger cost comes via the continuing lost opportunity as no Miami team features in the MLS.
If the plans can reach fruition, there is a captive audience. Miami’s diverse population and South American influence means a sufficient number of football obsessives and, in theory, potentially huge support. Elsewhere in Florida, Orlando City, the club with Kaká in their ranks, played in front of 62,000 at the weekend.
At just under two years, Orlando’s transition from being awarded their franchise to playing their first MLS match is regarded as swift. Just 235 miles down the highway, the pace of progress is altogether different.
David Beckham Wants to See Zlatan Ibrahimovic in MLS – at Some Point They played together briefly for Paris Saint-Germain, and now former England captain David Beckham has had his say on the future of Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Manchester United forward has been linked with a move to Beckham's ex-club, the LA Galaxy, but Beckham believes Ibrahimovic would benefit more from staying with the Red Devils for now.
Speaking to ESPN (H/T goal.com), Beckham was full of praise for Ibrahimovic, but said he didn't think the time was right for Sweden's record goalscorer to make the move.
"No matter how you talk about him, he's one of the best players, one of the best people, and if he comes to this league at some point it would be great," he said.
"But at the moment he's a Manchester United player and I'm happy about that, and I want him to stay there. But at some point he might come here."
Beckham, who made the move to America following a spell at Spanish giants Real Madrid, was speaking at the launch of his new Miami franchise MLS club, and admitted that attracting a player of Ibrahimovic's caliber would be a huge boost to the American league in the future.
"Any mention of any great player like Zlatan coming to this league can only be good for the league," he said
"And when you talk about Zlatan, yeah, it's great that it's talked about like that, and he would be more than welcomed into this league by fans, by players. It doesn't matter what injuries he has had over his career — he's a beast."
United boss Jose Mourinho has admitted that he wouldn't stand in the way of Ibrahimovic making the move, and it seems as though it is up to the Swede to make the final decision on his own future.