David Beckham’s epic three-year pursuit of owning a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami is closer now to a reality than it’s ever been.
Beckham – alongside his newest investor, Todd Boehly – pitched their vision to MLS’ Board of Governors on Wednesday 2nd August and got the vote of confidence they needed.
This vote authorises a league committee to finalise the finer details of their proposal to enter the league in 2020. Meaning their winding journey towards Miami is nearing a successful end, but it has been a journey they won’t forget…
It all started…
… in 2014 after David Beckham exercised his option in his contract from his playing days to establish an expansion franchise in Miami. They were pencilled as the 24th team to join MLS, but from this point on, the arduous journey came to be characterised by their disastrous search for a site to house their stadium.
Their opening chapter in 2014 was a knocked back attempt to locate the franchise at PortMiami; followed by an endeavour to locate the stadium to Downtown Miami shot down in 2015; before efforts to build next to Marlins Park in Little Havana were derailed last year.
Finally a forth candidate emerged – Overtown. While this brought some progress, even this site came with its problems.
The Overtown neighbourhood.
The identified land in Overtown was a collection of small sites which required consolidated.
That meant first acquiring six acres of the land privately (for £14.7million), with a further three acres of adjacent land to be purchased separately. Separately because this land was public, belonging to the Miami County Water & Sewer Department. Acquiring it required Miami city council approval.
The venture was placed into limbo for a year while they navigated a web of local politics.
In the meantime…
… they re-organised some pieces of the puzzle.
A big part of the projects’ floundering was a lack of credibility around having significant, reliable financial backing – given the project was anticipated to top $300 million.
But that all changed once Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner – and billionaire investment banker – Todd Boehly was brought on board in April 2017. The team was in place: Beckham, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, entertainment mogul Simon Fuller and MLS veteran exec Tim Leiweke.
With this piece of the puzzle – and prior to a Miami council hearing to decide on approving the Overtown land purchase or not – the group set about proving they belonged.
The Overtown residents had raised concerns that the group wouldn’t be bringing enough to the local area to compensate for thethis factor was as contingent to the success of the project as the purchase of the land itself. So the group set about proving that point of view wrong.
Miami Beckham United (MBU) stole a march by scheduling town hall meetings and taking their pitch directly to the Overtown residents – first allaying fears of traffic and parking complications with a strategy to keep cars away from the stadium area, coupled with a plan to encourage the use of public transportation, and a “March to the Match” that would parade fans on foot to the stadium en masse.
They also presented this not just as a strategy, but as a paradigm shift in how people could travel to large events en masse. While at the same time, unveiling a privately-funded, open-roof, 25,000-seat stadium design not reliant on subsidies and also subject to county property tax further paying back to the community.
This was a different proposition altogether. That was the message the group were leaving with the city council to decide.
6th June 2017
Then came decision day.
And it is the one which will go down as the turning point in the history of Miami-Beckham United: it is the day their fate changed.
Because on June 6th 2017, at the forth time of asking, after more than a year of conversation, the City of Miami council formally endorsed the £7 million sale of the three-acre land the group needed to get a stadium off the ground.
That meant apart from some formalities around city zoning permits, the final political hurdle was done.
Now the hard work was done…
They were free to pursue their franchise dream with gusto.
It was on to the league.
And the first major step was getting a vote of confidence from the Board of Governors, putting the matter now in the hands of a league committee to grant Miami formal approval of a MLS place.
They are now, finally, very much at the finish line… just a bit more to go.
And the greatest of investments will start to make a return on itself.
When Beckham joined MLS in 2007, his incentive package included a discounted offer to launch an expansion franchise for just $25 million.
Given today’s entry figure is hovering around $150 million mark, and with investment partner Tim Leiweke estimating recently that the team could be worth $500 million by the time it entered the league, this may well be the best move Beckham has made.
But what’s important is that Miami is ready for it when it comes. And it needs to be because that point could be by the end of the year.
First posted on MLS Multiplex here