David Beckham may cost Major League Soccer $50m a season for his five-year contract (and that’s $100m gone already), but his impact on the league’s success has been marginal at best.
MLS officials at the time envisioned more TV viewers, as well as higher attendance and franchise values.
Their optimism was based on landing a player many called the biggest star to play the game in the United States since Brazil’s Pele signed in 1975 to play in the MLS’s predecessor league.
Early returns for the MLS have been mixed as stagnant TV ratings and a lack of profits contrast with higher attendance and franchise values.
TV ratings ticked up to 0.3 [that’s 0.3% of Americans watching television, my edit] from 0.2 in Beckham’s first year before slipping back to 0.2 in the just completed season, all on Walt Disney Co’sABC, and ESPN networks, according to the Nielsen Co.
Those are a far cry from the 0.9 rating garnered in the league’s first season in 1996.
For the record, I don’t begrudge the man his $250m contract. Well maybe I do a small bit, but more from envy than resentment. If somebody waved that much money in my direction I wouldn’t say no right off the bat. However, I still don’t see it paying off as a proper investment, even if it is only part of MSL’s marketing push. It’s also unfair to put the responsibility of raising the league’s profile on one man’s shoulders.by