ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
Today, they called it the second British invasion. It's not four guys in suits and bowl cuts this time. Major League Soccer is banking on David Beckham. The British soccer star, also a man of many stylish haircuts, he is headed to Los Angeles to play for the L.A. Galaxy. He will reportedly be paid at $250 million over five years. During a news conference earlier today, David Beckham said that he knows his sport would be competing with baseball, basketball and our version of football.
Mr. DAVID BECKHAM (Soccer Player): You know, it's hard, sometimes, to compete with some of those when they've been around and they've got the history that they have. But I think that soccer has got huge, huge potential. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe that I could, you know, make a difference and take soccer to the different level. Then, I wouldn't be doing this and I wouldn't be signing the contract for five years.
SIEGEL: Well, here to talk about this new deal for Beckham is Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal, who joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Did you hear him say soccer, Stefan?
Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Wall Street Journal): I did. He's been well trained.
SIEGEL: Well, let's talk about, about what otherwise that brought him over here. $250 million dollars over five years - the L.A. Galaxy can afford that kind of money?
Mr. FATSIS: Well, it's a very, very sexy figure, but it's really nothing more than an estimate. Beckham won't make about $10 million a year in salary. And you have to put that in context, the entire team salary cap in major league soccer is $2 million. But MLS is different from other sports. The league itself signs and pays all players. The money comes from the league's investors who operate the individual teams. In Los Angeles, that's the Anschutz Entertainment Group or AEG, which is a worldwide entertainment company. Now, the idea behind that is a very carefully control spending on players. But the league reached a point last year where it's held, needed to start going after some international stars. It passed a rule, which was immediately dubbed the Beckham rule that allows teams to pay one player with their own money. So the $10 million comes from that. As for the rest, Beckham is going to get 40 to 50 percent of the sales of his Galaxy jersey, which are going to be worldwide, and it's going to be in enormous number. And he'll also get a cut of ticket revenue. Then, you throw in his endorsement deals that he already has, $20-$25 million a year, and you create this headline-grabbing number.
SIEGEL: The idea here being that soccer fans the world over will have to replace his Real, Madrid shirt, which already replaced his Manchester United shirt, with his L.A. Galaxy shirt?
Mr. FATSIS: And they will. I mean, the big revenue sources for the league and for AEG are ticket sales, jersey sales, new corporate sponsorships and the sale of international television rights. The rest of the world has not exactly been dying to watch Major League Soccer. Guess what? Now, suddenly, the Los Angeles Galaxy is a global brand. And you've got to remember too that MLS is only 11 years old. It's still expanding. The league hopes that bringing David Beckham will entice the investment community to take a closer look at it.
SIEGEL: What is the jump, here, down, in the level of competition. Is this the equivalent of an NFL player deciding to go play in Europe, or an American Major League Baseball star going to play in Japan?
Mr. FATSIS: Well, Major League Soccer is sort of on a level of a second tier European league. There're some very, very good players, but overall, the skill level is not what Beckham is accustomed to. And this was really a big topic of conversation on the soccer message boards the last 24 hours. David Beckham's 31 years old. He's certainly not what he was as a player, but by no means is he over the hill. I mean, this guy was captain of England in the World Cup last summer. So coming to MLS, he should be the best player on the field, but he's never been a prolific goal scorer. Soccer remains an 11-person aside game. Fans are going to need to understand that they're not going to get 20 highlight clips every time he plays.
SIEGEL: And if Beckham isn't the great star of the MLS?
Mr. FATSIS: Well, that's the downside. This money thing is going to create huge expectations. The league needs to make it clear that it brought Beckham here because he's still a terrific soccer player who can raise the profile on the quality of the sport in the United States, and because he genuinely wants to do that. Let's hope that's true.
SIEGEL: Stefan Fatsis of the Wall Street Journal. Thanks a lot, Stefan.
FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.