Beckham effect? What Beckham effect?

November 28, 2008

Reuters reporter Ben Klayman takes a look at the just finished Major League Soccer season, from a business perspective, and finds that the much-anticipated ‘Beckham bounce’ doesn’t seem to have happened. He writes:

Two years after David Beckham joined the league, Major League Soccer is facing many headwinds in addition to the declining economy as it attempts to establish itself as a major player on the sports landscape.While Beckham’s signing in 2007 helped boost the league’s public awareness and put more fans in the seats, television ratings for the young league remain stagnant and some analysts said the MLS will never be more than a minor player behind football, baseball and basketball.

There are few teams making money yet out of the MLS (although the same could be said of most clubs in debt-ridden European leagues) but, as Ben notes, there are plenty of investors still wanting a piece of the action:

Enough people believe in the MLS that seven bidders hope to be one of the 2011 expansion teams, including groups with the owner of the National Football League’s Atlanta team, a partnership that includes the Barcelona soccer club and the owner of the National Hockey League team in Montreal.

Clearly those investor groups believe that there is money to be made out of soccer in the US market at some stage in the future.Do they have real reason to be confident? Or is Michael Cramer, professor of sports management at New York University, right when he says: “I have real doubts Major League Soccer as we know it will make it in the next 20 to 25 years”?Personally, I find the argument that the MLS will never be able to overtake the NFL, MLB or NBA in the popularity stakes to rather miss the point. Soccer has its niche in the market, the specialist television stations broadcast the games and the soccer specific stadiums of 20,000 capacity appear to be ideal for the clubs at this stage.That the MLS is expanding in difficult economic times indicates things aren’t quite so glum as some soccer sceptics suggest. MLS isn’t about to re-make the mistakes of the NASL by expanding too quickly, with too many foreign players, but that means progress is less spectacular.PHOTO: David Beckham smiles during his presentation as an LA Galaxy player in Carson, California, July 13, 2007. REUTERS/Toby Melville


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Beckham? Or should I say Beckhams? David Beckham and his wife saw the move to the U.S as nothing more than another easy money making opportunity. It was a greed mission nothing more, nothing less! All Brits have had over 10yrs experience or should I say over exposure of this couples relentless empty hype, publicity stunts and PR. Their only concern is themselves and satisfying their obscene personal greed. Nice to see the U.S public, press and media sussing them out so early!

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Posted by The "Beckham bounce" never happened in MLS. – The Run of Play | Report as abusive

I think that eventually they may be big but not for alot of years yet!!

Posted by Dave Stopher | Report as abusive

came to usa 1993 and watched school soccer ,the quality of the play was a joke,i watch the juniors play now and the transformation is a miracle,the skill level the potential of some of the players is better than i have ever seen.i watched a little league base ball game and sadly and most exhaustion i saw was in the queue as they waited for more money comes into the game so will its popularity,and the incidence of obese kids will come down as well.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I’ve watched a lot of televised soccer over the last 10 years in the USA and the problem is not with the soccer players, but with the film crews. The camera crews taping MLS games are constantly jumping between close-ups and full field views. The crews are not video taping a fluid game which is what makes soccer beautiful. Instead, they are constantly cutting between extreme close ups of players running with the ball and wide angle views trying to track where the ball was kicked. It makes for a crappy composition. People are always saying that the MLS will remain 4th behind baseball, football and basketball but that may be because the MLS is forced to use the 4th tier of sports broadcasting crews. If any body has any information I would love to hear about it. I am only speaking from watching the difference between European Soccer Broadcasts and MLS broadcasts but don’t have any experience with what is actually taking place. Please respond with comments.

Posted by Television is the problem | Report as abusive

I agree that there is a big problem with televised soccer in the US. I get so frustrated trying to watch a game while some morons are in charge of the cameras.One of the really irritating things I constantly see is the camera showing a closeup of some player after he kicks the ball and he is now completely out of the play. The play continues but the idiot in charge is still showing the useless closeup! That just kills the enjoyment of the game. Follow the ball!Also, MLS loves to have the coach interviewed on screen during the action, showing his head the same size as the now shrunken soccer field. Just because you can do it (split screen), doesn’t mean you should! Just play the audio if you must, but DO NOT interrupt the game!And ESPN: if I’m watching a college football game, don’t interrupt it with what’s happening in MLS. And if I’m watching MLS, I don’t care right now about college football.One last thing for MLS to succeed on TV: Do not allow air horns, and do not allow the streamers and trash to be thrown on the field. The Latin American style trash thrown on the field makes for truly awful TV viewing. Can you imagine the EPL with that junk?

Posted by Victor | Report as abusive

In addition to the poor camera work. The commentators are just plain awful. JP Dellacamera and John Harkes are as bad as the American Football commentators on Fox.They both seem to know the game very well and Harkes, as I understand it, was a good player but… those two just ramble on and on and focus on the strangest things.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

Very interesting comments. I think good TV coverage is absolutely essential to promoting a league. English soccer was always popular but the modernisation of coverage once Sky took over helped push it to a new level. Once, people used to argue over whether soccer or cricket was England’s national sport. There’s no argument now.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Very interesting comments and I think there is certainly something in the argument that US tv doesn’t cover soccer well.

Posted by Simon Evans | Report as abusive