Wednesday, May 22, 2013

David Beckham and Orlando City

David Beckham announced his retirement as a player two weeks ago, since that time the internet has been buzzing over whether or not he would exercise his option to purchase an expansion Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.

If you are not familiar with the deal, Beckham's contract with MLS included an option allowing him to purchase a new franchise at a reduced fee of $25M excluding the Los Angeles and New York markets once he retired from playing. Even though his time with the LA Galaxy ended in November he still retains the right to exercise this option for a future franchise in the league.

Most of the talk has centered around Beckham bringing a team to Miami, perhaps partnering with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and playing at a newly renovated Sun Life Stadium. The concept is simple, pair the most recognized player in the world with a new or heavily renovated stadium, add a splash of cash and like magic, the league finds success in Florida. That's logic my 4-year old daughter could even follow, but it sure would be nice to find another example with which we can draw comparisons. 

The most recognized player in the world, a new stadium, and cash; those are the ingredients went into the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. Michael Jordan, arguably the face of professional basketball around the world, purchased the Bobcats in 2010 with the idea of revitalizing the expansion franchise. The team plays at $260M Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte which opened in 2005. The Bobcat's overall payroll has ranked around the middle of the league over the last few seasons which doesn't necessarily translate directly into success (i.e. LA Lakers). Attendance has been in the bottom quarter of league standings with home games drawing under 15,000 last season. On the court, the Bobcats have had the fewest wins in two seasons of any team in the history of the league, 29 out of 120 games played. Fame, fortune, facility all appear to be locks for success on paper, but in professional sports it is the supporters who determine the financial success of a team.

Many people in New York and beyond have argued that the latest MLS franchise, New York City FC, feels "forced", that it's a business first and a soccer club second. Wouldn't a Beckham-led expansion franchise in Miami also have that same feeling of being forced? While the Fort Lauderdale Strikers have a presence in South Florida there has been no mention of their involvement in any effort to join Beckham for his expansion effort. Instead it would be a business first, club second model similar to NYCFC where the league would award the franchise then hope the club would work out the rest.

MLS has seen "expansion through promotion" of lower league teams as a blueprint for tremendous success in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal in recent years. Wouldn't Beckham becoming part of the Orlando City expansion effort make the most sense of any of his possible options?

Beckham will make money on the franchise option regardless of location. With the average franchise valuation coming in around $70M-80M, his $25M investment will pay-off immediately even if he does nothing more than write the check. In the case of Orlando City he could purchase the expansion rights at $25M, sell minority stakes to existing owners Rawlins and da Silva, and operate as an ambassador for the club as he sat back and watched his investment grow with the team and league's success. He could live anywhere he (or Posh) wanted knowing that his investment was in good hands with a formula that has proven success in the league, expansion through promotion.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Associated Press via The Telegraph



  2. Not to mention the heavy population of Englishmen in Orlando.

  3. Worth noting that Miami didn't even sell out their playoff game tonight. Its a HORRIBLE pro sports market. Just awful.

  4. Finally, somebody said what I, we, all were thinking. Smart money is in Orlando where we have the ability to not only fill a stadium, but make it so the new franchise has economic stability throughout its tenure.
    Give us, Orlando City a chance and we'll show you what we're made of.
    Becks! You and your trusted personnel should legitimately look at Orlando as a potential investment. We won't let you down.

  5. I came to Orlando 3 weeks ago to visit.. while i was their i went to watch Orlando City play a home game against Antigua Barracuda. Orlando were fantastic and so were their fans, i was so impressed with the passion showed towards the team by the supporters. the stadium was fantastic although the citrus bowl holds 65.000 their was only 7.000 fans their. The team Orlando have is pretty good with some fine footballers, the manager (Adrian Heath) is doing a great job and i even spoke to a couple of players after the game, James O'Conner who played his career in England was telling me that the team hopes to be in the MLS by 2015 if the owners can stump up the money to pay the fee to join the league. I really believe that the club can grow from strength to strength if someone like David Beckham got involved, they have the Players, the manager and the passionate fans to do well and become a huge team. Although Beckham could possibly using the team for self gain because he knows how many tourists visit Orlando from England every year, i think both parties will benefit. Orlando City will be thrown into the worlds spot light and they will attract even better quality players from around the globe, If Beckham does take ownership i'm pretty sure the teams finances with shoot up in no time. Possibly they could go the the MLS sooner than 2015 with the help of brand Beckham. Just remember guys, EVERYTHING David Beckham touches turns to gold, it's a win/win situation all round. can't wait for my next visit to Orlando to watch another game..

  6. Wow, that made great sense. Great observation. And the timing looks right for Orlando and Mr. Beckham. I hope he reads this article.

  7. I was an Orlando City skeptic a year ago when I talked to some of your fans at a match here in Charleston, but you converted me earlier this year. I think Orlando -- more than any remaining market in North America -- has proven itself ready to move up, and I'm pulling for you to get that bid. Adding Beckham to the ownership group would be a win-win.

    The only hesitation I have is a selfish one. I just don't like the unbalanced schedule. Adding a 20th franchise re-balances it. Adding a 21st messes it up again. And even if MLS felt ready to add three teams over the next three years to get to 22, I'm not sure there is a third ownership group, particularly one that's got a successful team in an attractive market, that's ready to move up with you.

    1. I highly doubt MLS returns to the balanced schedule regardless of number of teams, so don't worry so much about that. If anything, it may be even more conference-centric.


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