So since the first announcement of his arrival David Beckham has been a lightning rod of both positive and negative reactions, I mean heck Grant Wahl even got a book out of the thing. I have heard about every argument for and against him over the last 5 years and to be honest very few of the points made on either side hold a lot of weight for me. I try to, like with most things look at both sides of an issue (for me that means as a fan and from the business side of things) and even when I do that again very few of the points in the pro or anti-Beckham camps hold up.
I can however understand why LA Galaxy fans, MLS HQ folks, MLS sponsors, and others think that he is simply the best thing to ever happen to MLS. I can also understand how fans of other teams see him as the poster child for all things wrong with Major League Soccer. After the jump some points that simply can't be argued:
- He brings attention (be it good or bad) to Major League Soccer - Now one only has to look at the circus of this off-season to understand that not just in LA or MLS is David Beckham big news. You can question if the attention he brings is good for the league or not, but you can't question that people around the world still pay attention when the story is about David Beckham.
- He puts butts in seats - So while the impact of David Beckham on TV ratings is questionable at best, there is one reality he does put butts in seats. At the Home Depot Center the average attendance was over 23K again last year (2nd to Seattle) and on the road the LA Galaxy draw an average of over 22K the best in the league (NYRB is second with over 21K), no other road team even averages 19K. So love him or hate him people do come out to see him.
- He delivered a MLS Cup - while it took longer than most expected Beckham, Donovan, and Keane became the first Designated Players to lift MLS Cup. If you look back over the last 4 years, the reality is that LA has been a top team in MLS, either at the top of the table (back to back Supporters' Shields), or in the playoffs (played in 2 MLS Cups in 3 years).
- More than just money - For LA the move to get and keep Beckham, the efforts to keep Landon Donovan, and the willingness to pick up Robbie Keane show that for AEG it is about more than money (at least in the short term). The Galaxy don't have 10K season ticket holders (at least they didn't in 2009,10 or at the start of 11- according to a league source), they finally got a big time TV deal (at the end of last year), but the moves they have made appear to be more about establishing a brand than about turning a quick profit. David showed when he chose to return to LA that it wasn't just about the money as other teams were offering him more than he is going to get the next two seasons. Both of those are good things in my book.
"We challenge the rest of the league to rise to the occasion like us," Leiweke said. "Join us and be right there with us and compete with us and aspire to be that good. Challenge us on if we're going to be the best brand ever and prove us wrong and I hope you do. We challenge every other club to now come to this level and join us and spend the money and go get the players that at the end of the day will change this sport forever."