With the clock ticking down on David Beckham’s contract at LA Galaxy, the former Manchester United midfield will be much in demand from clubs in both the US and Europe. However, two of the most interesting options open to the 35-year-old, who played nearly 400 games for United, are not on the field but in football administration.
Beckham’s four-year journey in Los Angeles ends in November next year, when the 2011 season finishes, unless the Californian club chooses to extend his deal. While Beckham has said he could play until he’s 40, moves are reportedly already afoot by the player’s camp to follow Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer from the pitch and into the corridors of football power.
In a week when the fall-out from England’s failed World Cup 2018 bid has been both bitter and angry, Beckham is reportedly being lined up by the Football Association as a future chairman of the body – and potentially earning a place on FIFA’s powerful executive committee to boot.
Mindful of English football’s poor reputation in the world game, some within domestic football’s governing body see Beckham as the man with the PR skills and profile to repair the country’s seemingly damaged reputation, reports the News of the World today.
Beckham’s other off-the-field alternative is club ownership, with his MLS contract containing a franchise option. The MLS commission, keen to expand from 16 teams in 2008 to 20 or more over the next three years, will welcome Beckham as a franchise owner with open arms.
Despite a major contribution to raising the profile of football in the United States, Beckham’s US sojourn is not without its failings. On the field LA finished the current season holding the MLS Supporters’ Shield for the best Regular Season record for the first time in the player’s stint in the city of angels. However, Galaxy lost out to new franchise Seattle Sounders in the play-offs, with MLS following a typical American sports regular and post season system.
Beckham has also intermittently played for Galaxy, appearing just 52 times in three seasons as injury and international commitments restricted the player’s impact. A torn left Achilles tendon suffered while on a second loan spell in Milan forced the midfielder to miss most of the 2010 season; just as an ankle injury had delayed the player’s début for Galaxy in 2007.
However, Beckham’s right to buy into an established franchise or take on an expansion team was confirmed by Commission Don Garber last year, although no details in which club the player might invest are yet clear.
“David has the option for our 20th team,” Garber said in 2009. “That option can’t be exercised until after 2011 or after he stops playing, so we’ve got some time to figure that one out.”
Seattle was awarded an expansion team for 2009, Philadelphia for 2010, and Vancouver and Portland for 2011. Meanwhile, in May Garber announced that the Montreal Impact would join the league as its 19th club for the 2012 season in the renovated 20,000-seat Saputo Stadium.
The 20th seems certain to be located in New York or Detroit, with the pulling power of the Big Apple attractive to sponsors and TV viewers alike. This is especially true after this season’s MLS Cup Final between Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas drew the smallest TV audience in years.
Indeed, in August Pelé was drafted to relaunch the New York Cosmos brand, for whom the Brazilian legend played alongside Beckenbauer in the 1970s. The franchise closed in the ’80s though and is currently little more than a concept, with neither a stadium nor any players signed up to the club.
Meanwhile, the proposed Detroit franchise has already experienced more than one false dawn. In the early part of the decade an attempt failed for lack of community support, although a friendly between AC Milan and Panathinaikos at the Pontiac Silverdome drew over 30,000 fans in August. The new Dome owners reportedly want both an MLS and women’s soccer franchise in the City.
There remains significant other barriers to Beckham’s entry into club ownership though, with no word on whether the Essex-born star is prepared to invest the $40 million ‘franchise fee’ demanded by the MLS, nor if Beckham is ready to give up playing before a 20th franchise comes to fruition.
Sadly, there is little chance Beckham will return to United in the medium term, despite reports that the player could buy into a Red Knights-inspired buyout at Old Trafford; a rumour neither confirmed nor denied by the player.
“In addition to ownership of an American club,” reported ESPN Soccernet in February. “Beckham would look favourably on buying into Manchester United, the club he supported as a boy, and for which he retains an unflinching affection.”
Perhaps even more intriguing is Beckham’s leading role in the failed World Cup bid. Indeed, the FA’s position in the world governing body’s is arguably more marginalised than ever but Beckham has come through the humiliation largely unscathed.
The same cannot be said for Andy Anson, the English bid’s chief executive officer whose decision to round on the media and suck up to the FIFA executive committee embarrassingly backfired.
Neither can the placid – read ineffective – Geoff Thompson have a long-term role in the exec-co if the FA is to regain either power or influence in world football.
Not that any role for Beckham in FA or world administration is likely to come soon, as improbable as it seems. But the prospect is surely a fascinating one for a man who has grown into a world football statesman.