Thursday, January 11, 2007

That's Why They Called It the Beckham Rule

A few thoughts about today's big soccer news of David Beckham signing to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy:

(i) I like it. In general, I want MLS to be a league for young Americans to develop rather than a playground for retiring superstars. However, this isn't going to start the second coming of the NASL. The league has a rule in place to prevent too many signings of this nature. Plus, Beckham is one of the only players in the world that this move would work with. His celebrity is bigger than the game here. He'll be on the late night talk shows, the morning shows, the tabloid pages and TV ads. He'll be a brand all to himself. There are many better players in the world but only Beckham would generate this much publicity for the league.

(ii) Don't buy these figures of $250M for five years. Here's how it'll work...MLS will pay him $400,000 a year. AEG, the owners of the Galaxy will pay him about $9M per year and the rest of the value of the contract is in Beckham's image rights. Unlike most athletes in the world, Beckham will be able to sign his own endorsement deals. If the Galaxy has an endorsement deal with company XYZ, then company XYZ can't use Beckham's image in their ads without also compensating Becks. Additionally, Beckham can go out and sign an endorsement deal with a competing brand and the Galaxy wouldn't be able to stop it. He did not have those image rights at Real Madrid but now he will. Those rights are believed to be worth about $40M per year. That's how they get to $250M over five years.

(iii) Skin in the game. I like the fact that he'll own his image rights because it will give him a major motivation to not treat MLS as a retirement plan. If he sucks on the field, the value of those image rights will drop.

(iv) Game of the Week. The big winners in all of this is ESPN who bought the TV rights to MLS last year before all of this occurred. Their ratings will certainly increase above what they had projected when they signed the deal. Now, the question is how often they'll show the Galaxy. There'll be a big temptation on their part to hawk Beckham each week.

(v) More attractive destination. The best part of this deal for current fans is that it should attract better foreign players to the league. There are already rumors that Ronaldo and Edgar Davids will be following Becks. However, I'm not talking about superstars. I'm talking about players from the top half of the second tier of players rather than the bottom half of that tier.

(vi) They're still the Gals. People shouldn't expect LA to dominate simply because they signed Beckham. As a right midfielder, he's not going to score very often. His two best assets are free kicks and long crosses. Yes, there will be a few highlight reel free kick goals. But not enough to dominate the league. And he still needs a strong supporting cast to create space for him down the wings and finish his crosses. The fact is that the Galaxy missed the playoffs last year with a 11-15-6 record. They'll probably make the playoffs with him but Dallas and Houston are still much better teams in their own conference.

(vii) Pace yourself. Beckham won't be arriving until late July or early August. The media and fans will have to be patient. He still has to finish his season in Spain and then take a break for a month or two before being good to go.

(viii) Paging Mr. Kovalenko. Anyone want to bet how long it'll take for the thugs in MLS to attact Beckham's ankles? MLS refs allow a lot of crappy tackles that European refs always whistle. Therefore, almost each team has a thug like Dema Kovalenko or Joey Franchino who has built their career around rough tackles. It'll only be a matter of time before one of them nails Becks with a "Welcome to MLS" assault on his knees.

(ix) Once again, I like it. This season will be fun to watch.

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