Beckham reveals Miami franchise
David Beckham has exercised his option to purchase a Major League Soccer expansion team in Miami, and the deal will be finalised when the former Manchester United and England captain can secure a financing plan and location for a new stadium.
"I am thrilled to announce that David Beckham has exercised his option to purchase an MLS expansion team and has selected Miami for his club," MLS commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday.
Beckham made the announcement during a news conference in Miami with Garber and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
"Thank you for the warm welcome," Beckham told a crowd of more than 300 people, who attended the news conference at a downtown museum plaza on a sunny, 80-degree morning. "This is an exciting time, and something we're really looking forward to bringing to Miami."
Beckham has scouted possible stadium sites and is seeking investors to assist with startup costs such as construction and player acquisitions. Among those who might become involved is Beckham's friend LeBron James, who has had recent conversations with the retired soccer star about bringing a team to Miami.
"We don't want public funding," Beckham said to applause. "We will fund the stadium ourselves. We have worked very hard to get to this stage where we can fund the stadium ourselves. We want to create a football club that is the people's football club."
Beckham, looking the part of a businessman in a suit and tie, said the mayor made a commitment to place stadium downtown. Gimenez - who at one point referred to Beckham as "Beckman" - said there's political support for a stadium plan.
Beckham said the next steps were to sit down with city officials and his business partners.
"People like to walk to football, I've seen what it is like in Seattle. We can't build a stadium in six months but once we have a site, once we work with the mayor and the commissioners of Miami we will be pretty quick," said Beckham.
Beckham's investment group, Miami Beckham United, has begun negotiations with the county over the publicly owned seaport site, according to the Miami Herald. Miami-Dade officials have said that any deal involving public land would have to clear political hurdles.
Beckham's group have said they plan to use private funds to build the stadium, though it has hired a Tallahassee lobbyist to seek a state subsidy other professional sports teams have received.
Asked why he chose Miami, Beckham said "Why not?"
He said he looked forward to starting with a team from scratch with business partners Simon Fuller as well as Marcelo Claure - the billionaire owner of Brightstar Corp.
"I want to make it my own team," he said. "I know this city is ready for football and this is going to be successful."
The mayor said negotiations for a stadium site are ongoing.
"We are willing partners. We are very grateful that David Beckham and MLS have chosen Miami as the site for their franchise," Gimenez said. "We are going to do all in our power to get the stadium built in the right place."
The stadium plan that has gained the most attention is a bid to lease a parcel of county-owned land in the Port of Miami.
The proposed site, which is county-owned, is close to the Miami Heat's basketball arena and Miami Beach hotel district, but county commissioners have also encouraged MLS to consider other sites away from the busy port.
As part of the MLS contract he signed when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Los Angeles Galaxy star had the right to an expansion team at a discount fee of $25 million. MLS's Miami Fusion played in Fort Lauderdale from 1998-01 before folding because of poor attendance.
The crowd at the news conference included chanting fans, and several dozen photographers who jostled for pictures.
"People here love this sport," Garber said. "We together have no doubt it will be a very successful MLS team."
Garber has recently pushed for rapid MLS expansion, starting with New York City FC in 2015. Miami is the league's 22nd franchise. The league hopes to place its next expansion team in Atlanta.