Beckham effect? What Beckham effect?
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