Rae's Say: Beckham the perfect marketing man

January 16, 2007
By Derek Rae
(Archive)

Now that we've had a few days to digest the frightening financial details of the David Beckham to Los Angeles transfer, perhaps it's time to take stock of what it all means for the player himself, and the league he'll soon be playing in.

David Beckham
GettyImages / DenisDoyleDavid Beckham has already provided invaluable media coverage for MLS

The extreme view from England of course, is that Beckham's move to California is tantamount to giving up. Tommy Docherty went as far as to suggest on the radio the other night, that the standard of football in MLS is akin to that of the Conference in England. It's no better than what's on offer at Altrincham, in the Doc's opinion.

Subscribers to that school of thought will tell you that Beckham - his skills having clearly diminished - should have sought a swift return to the Premiership. Only back in England could he prove the critics and doubters wrong, and possibly regain his place in the England team.

In fact, the standard of play in Major League Soccer is not nearly as bad as the man who has 'had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus' would have us believe. Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Tim Howard and now Clint Dempsey would not be playing in the English top flight now, were it not for MLS. But let's be clear: it's a long way from Premiership level, and it's doubtful whether it's the Championship in England either.

We mustn't forget though, that on the other side of the Atlantic, the arrival of Beckham serves a specific purpose. MLS, through last week's big announcement, received arguably more publicity in two hours than in the previous two years. The former England captain now becomes the league's chief marketing director. Beckham, a man who sincerely loves the modern-day media circus, won't object.

Americans can't help but take notice of David Beckham. This has little to do with football and everything to do with the cult of celebrity, but you can't blame the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer for taking advantage of that. They have gone out and seized the opportunity to enhance the profile of league football in the USA. All credit to them.

The question really is this, however. Will Beckham's arrival prove to be just another short-term gimmick, or will it kick start a genuine and long-lasting interest in football amongst followers of the other big American sports?

Problematic for MLS is the fact that there is only one David Beckham, one player who can generate this sort of buzz in the USA, even though far from being the top footballer of his generation. Fans will doubtless come in their droves to see his initial MLS appearances. Crafty ticket managers at other clubs will probably package a deal whereby fans have to attend multiple games just to get into a match involving the Galaxy.

However, after the early hype dies down, will there be anything real left on the surface? Although played by more American youngsters than ever before, the culture of football remains on the periphery of American life.

If he can even go part of the way towards changing that cultural outlook, Becks will have earned his bucks.


It's fairly obvious that Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovich are heading for a quickie divorce in the summer. While Mourinho is the sort of manager more likely to stay with a particular team for two years rather than two decades, it's the owner who has much to answer for in this case.

Clearly Abramovich has learned little from the chaos created a few hours north in Edinburgh by the interference of Hearts' majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

Abramovich has done what might look like the impossible, in making Mourinho look sympathetic to the neutral football fan.

Don't be surprised if Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon already has a special plan that involves the 'special one.'


Terry Butcher
GettyImages / MarkMetcalfeTerry Butcher is the manager of Sydney FC

If you want football excitement this weekend, and can't get tickets for Anfield or the Emirates Stadium, your best bet might be Australia's A-League. With just one round of fixtures remaining before the play-offs begin, it's anyone's guess which three teams will join the overwhelming title favourites Melbourne Victory, and Adelaide United, in the last four.

Adelaide's dramatic 1-0 victory over Sydney FC last weekend, secured thanks to a last minute goal from Brazilian striker Fernando, has placed enormous pressure on the Sydneysiders, coached by former England captain Terry Butcher.

Sydney, Queensland Roar (who now have ex-Socceroos coach Frank Farina in charge) and Newcastle Jets are all vying for the two remaining slots. Sydney's problem is that they must travel to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane to play Queensland, with both sides locked together on 28 points.

A slip-up by either Sydney or Queensland could let in Newcastle who are at home to Melbourne on Friday.


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