For MLS, Becks is worth the bucks

DEAN McNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

His nickname is "Goldenballs" and David Beckham certainly comes by it honestly.

And contrary to popular belief it came as result of his touch around a soccer goal and not because he married Victoria (Posh) Spice.

He easily is the most recognized soccer star in the English-speaking world and his skills on the pitch have twice -- first with Manchester United and then with Real Madrid -- made his pay packet worth as much as the gross national product of a small nation.

Now Major League Soccer is counting on his star power to launch the North American version of premier division soccer into the upper echelons of professional sports on this side of the ocean.

Beckham's signing earlier this year by the Los Angles Galaxy has put that franchise in the limelight.

He also has been credited with being the catalyst behind Toronto FC's remarkable sell-out of season tickets before the carpet was even finished being laid at BMO Field.

TFC tickets sales doubled on the very day it was announced that Beckham had signed a $250-million US deal with the Galaxy.

A month later when the MLS schedule was released showing he would play his first league game against Toronto, season ticket sales jumped in one day from 10,500 to 12,000.

But to some, the $250-million price tag around Beckham's neck is just as likely to turn into an anchor.

The memory of the long-defunct North American Soccer League and its fall into financial ruin when it threw cash at stars like Pele still is fresh in the minds of many.

Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., which owns Toronto FC, however, said MLS is a much different animal than the NASL.

"Firstly, the owners of MLS franchises, for the most part have very deep pockets," Anselmi said. "And Beckham's contract is really nothing close to the $250 million that is being used in the media."

Sources in the MLS head office confirm that Beckham's contract is mostly made up of promotional payments he will get from companies such as Coca-Cola and IBM.

Beckham's guaranteed salary will be around $50 million over the five-year length of the contract and $48 million of that is being put up by Galaxy owner Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Leiweke's net worth was reported in Sports Illustrated earlier this year as $7.8 billion.

Anselmi said the benefits of Beckham's signing dwarf whatever its cost to the league -- the other 12 MLS teams will share the remaining $2 million of the contract .

Alex Chapman, a partner at Briffa, a London law firm specializing in intellectual property, agrees with Anselmi about the worth of Beckham's name.

"David Beckham is a sports marketer's dream -- talented, photogenic and with a pop-star wife," Chapman said. "He is almost certainly the world's most famous footballer."


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