February 06, 2014 08:21
Former England soccer captain David Beckham announced on Wednesday that he has exercised his option to become the owner of a Major League Soccer team in Miami.
"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," the international soccer star said at an appearance with MLS Commissioner Don Garber at the south Florida city's gleaming new bayfront art museum.
"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."
Garber called the decision a "historic day... for soccer in America," noting that Beckham was the first former player anywhere in the world to become the owner of a top league soccer team in modern times.
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 U.S. professional soccer league.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez, said negotiations for the stadium started last week. "There's going to be a few bumps along the way, but we're going to make the team in Miami not just the best team in America, we're going to take the team global," Beckham told a reception for city leaders at Miami's performing arts center on Tuesday night.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star, who also played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, retired as a player last May and holds a $25 million option in his MLS contract to start a new franchise.
Beckham is already in discussions with Miami-Dade county to possibly lease county-owned land for a 25,000-seat stadium. "I have seen the atmosphere around the city," Beckham told the media Tuesday outside the reception, referring to scenes he witnessed last year when the city's basketball team, the Miami Heat, captured the National Basketball Association championship.
"I saw the passion of the people for sport," he said, dressed in a sharp charcoal suit and tie.
Beckham, 38, arrived in Miami fresh from having attended Sunday's Superbowl in New Jersey, TV coverage of which featured a fit Beckham in an underwear commercial.
Beckham's investment group has narrowed its stadium search to five possible sites in and around downtown Miami, officials say, including a 25-acre (10-hectare) waterfront lot next to the port of Miami's cruise ship terminals, potentially putting the new team at the forefront of Miami's tourism landscape.
MLS has stressed the importance of having a final stadium deal, along with a business plan, before it will approve a new team.
Beckham's group is not looking for public financing, but may need to negotiate site plans with the county, such as leasing the port location, to help build a privately financed stadium.
Beckham has toured Miami twice in recent months with British businessman and American Idol creator Simon Fuller, as well as 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.
Beckham is also looking for a pad in Miami, although the London home he shares with his wife of 14 years, former pop star-turned-fashion designer Victoria Beckham, and their four young children, will remain the main family home.
"We are going to be spending a lot of time here," he told the media on Tuesday. "We are hoping to get our own place here as well."
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