Fri, Feb 07, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Beckham promises Miami a world-class soccer club

Reuters, MIAMI

Former England soccer captain David Beckham announced on Wednesday that he has exercised his option to become the owner of a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in Miami, promising to make it “the people’s club.”

The international soccer star said he looked forward to building a world-class team, as yet unnamed, during a Miami press conference alongside MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

“I have worked for some of the biggest clubs in the world and some of the greatest players in the world, and this is a dream,” said Beckham, dressed in a dark suit and tie to address a large media audience at a gleaming new bayfront art museum in the south Florida city.

“This is an exciting time ... for myself, exciting time for my family and friends and partners, and something we are really looking forward to bringing to Miami,” Beckham added, to chants of “We’re going to MLS” from a group of fans calling themselves the “Southern Legion.”

Beckham signed a shareholder agreement on Tuesday evening with his two partners, the British TV producer and creator of American Idol Simon Fuller, and Bolivian-born billionaire Marcelo Claure, founder of Miami-based Brightstar Corp, the world’s largest wireless distributor and the provider of global services to Apple Inc.

Garber called the franchise decision a “historic day ... for soccer in America,” adding that Beckham, 38, was the first former player anywhere in the world to become the owner of a top-league soccer team in modern times.

Beckham’s commitment to MLS, dating back to 2007 when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, has had “an incredibly powerful impact on our sport and our league in this country,” Garber said.

His influence had set the stage to “tell the world that United States and Major League Soccer can compete with the rest of the world,” Garber added.

A final deal to grant the franchise to Beckham’s investment group could be several months away though, sources close to the negotiations said, with a stadium location and financing still requiring approval from the MLS board for his team to become the 22nd club of the top US professional soccer league.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said negotiations for the stadium started last week.

“We know we have to get rolling on it,” he said.

The famously tattooed soccer star later had to abandon a planned photograph opportunity at a youth soccer facility when the field was rushed by hundreds of fans, media and paparazzi. He was due to kick the ball around with the children, but had to be escorted from the field due to security concerns.

Meanwhile, Miami Heat forward LeBron James, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, said he hoped to be involved with Beckham’s plan.

“Hopefully I can be,” James said when asked if he was involved in Beckham’s bid to build a world-class soccer team in Florida.

James already has a minority ownership stake with English Premier League team Liverpool.

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