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Learning more about the David Beckham-Miami expansion MLS bid – and not liking it

Oct 14, 2013, 8:05 PM EDT

Land Shark Stadium

About once a month, we get the next IV drip of information about David Beckham and when he’ll flash his MLS discount card on an expansion franchise. Or, alternatively, someone just moves the words around and gets a few clicks out of re-circulating an old Beckham interview, without really providing any, you know, new information.

We do have a wee bit of new info today, as ESPN FC reported more about how Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross could potentially be involved. And this one made me scrunch up my face and groan audibly, a bit like I’d just discovered a nasty rash somewhere … down there.

Ross is co-founder of RSE Ventures, a sports marketing company. So part of his ownership interest, according to the ESPN FC report, has RSE “looking to provide marketing services to the investment group being put together by Beckham, and possibly provide a temporary stadium solution for the proposed team.”

It goes on to mention Sun Life Stadium as this temporary stadium solution.

Let me be the first to put this on the record: Blek!

There’s a lot here not to like. First, when I hear “sports marketing firm,” we’re never far from a bunch of power suited, corner office types getting together and impressing each other with “re-branding strategies” and big buckets of marketing hooey … all of which moves the entire project further away from what the bottom line business should be: opening a proper stadium, putting some good soccer on the field and selling tickets for people to watch it. At some point, it’s not that complicated.

Getting “sports marketing firms” involved just means more layers of money changing hands at high levels – not what MLS is about. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall any high-dollar sports marketing firms getting involved with the recent, game-changing MLS success stories. Places like Seattle, Portland, Toronto (back when they still drew fans) and Philadelphia grew outstanding audience numbers organically.

At Sporting Kansas City, a wildly successful re-launch was about local, committed, engaged owners and a lot of old fashioned hands-on “figuring it out.”

The other thing not to like is Sun Life Stadium. I’ve been, and it’s a fine, fine place for football. This is the place that has been, officially, named Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and Land Shark Stadium. Yes, Land Shark Stadium.

On its face, I’m opposed to MLS attachment with anything ever named Land Shark Stadium. Plus, MLS has worked so hard to create stability. Meanwhile, what says “instability” like a home ground that has been under six names – including Land freakin’ Shark Stadium?

Seriously, it would be a terrible place for soccer, the next ginormous and ill-fitting Gillette Stadium or Giants Stadium waiting to happen. Hasn’t MLS covered this booby-trapped ground before? Shouldn’t we be past it? Shouldn’t we adopt an official stance of “Fool me once … and can’t get fooled again?”

I know it would be “temporary,” but if you think it’s easy to get an MLS stadium up and running, please visit the wonderful facilities that owners in New England and at D.C. United so easily created.

If this happens, and if the Miami Beckhams move into the place formerly known as Land Shark Stadium, would anybody be one bit shocked to see the club still passing, trapping and shooting there five or six years into its playing days?

  1. Steve Davis - Oct 14, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    Now you stop that! (Hey … do “the kids” know about SNL Landshark??)

  2. wallio - Oct 14, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    You forgot Sun Life Stadium.

  3. hildezero - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Miami LandSharks?! XD That’s SSOOO 1996, man! L.O.L.! Damn… *shakes head*

  4. christophermharris - Oct 14, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    A few points:

    1) Steve, have you ever been to Sun Life Stadium?

    2) Who cares how many names the stadium has. The stadium was opened in 1987.

    3) You share your distaste for “sports marketing firms,” but isn’t MLS/SUM a sports marketing firm in essence?

    • Steve Davis - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:02 PM

      You missed the part where I said ‘I’ve been … ‘ And SUM is indeed the marketing extension of MLS, but it’s largely a bundling operation for rights. Check the RSE website for the conceptual mushiness of what they really do … And then you tell me what they actually do.

  5. futbolhistorian - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    I love the marketing gobledygook on their website. This line from their explanation of what their business development guy does:

    “Responsible for sourcing, reviewing and optimizing new business opportunities for RSE across all of its verticals.” Brilliant.

    I will say this, though. They seem to be cutting edge in regards to embracing modern technology to enhance a team’s approach to marketing to fans. Something Seattle, Portland and Kansas City have done quite well. So they do have some similarities with those outfits.

    Opening a proper stadium, putting a good product on the field, and selling tickets is almost, but not quite enough. You also need to have good communication skills with your fans (definition of marketing), and the teams mentioned above are the best at it. The fact they all have great attendance numbers is not a coincidence, and I think it was due less to it happening organically and more due to very savvy social media and marketing efforts by those teams. Maybe RSE would be the type of ownership group that takes the same approach, who knows.

    I still remain quite skeptical of a Miami-based team having success, though. I hope I’m wrong if this group is indeed awarded a franchise.

    • wfjackson3 - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      No offense FH, but the sentence you quoted from their site is actually a pretty standard high level description for a BD person at an investment firm. Being as I occasionally have contact with venture capitalists, that sentence was adequate to tell me what I would want to contact him about.

  6. footballer4ever - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    At first glance having a billionaire owner is good for MLS, but the fact that billionaire is the owner of the Miami Dolphins (nfl) then doubts arise. For examply, look at Mr. Kraft…..his darling franchise is the Patriots while the New England Revolution is just a “nice franchise” to have as a tenant to occupy his stadium. In Miami’s potential MLS club, Ross will use the MLS club to eventually get his stadium upgraded, but I don’t feel he will invest the necessary when his own dolphins team struggles too. Mr. Ross should stick to bringing high profile football clubs during the summer or like the Brazi vs Honduras (pending WC qualification) on November 16, 2013. Aside from that, NFL owners do not respect and will not $upport a MLS team as it’s needed. At leaste Mr. Claure or that other Italian? owner are football aficionados, Mr. Ross is an eggball / money fan, not our football knowledgeable fan/businessman.

  7. braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:55 AM

    The whole thing comes off like Miami owns a napkin from 1996 saying, ‘Miami gets first crack at any expansion team if it takes place in the southeast’.

    Am I crazy or does it seem like MLS is about to setup shop in Miami just to prove once-and-for-all that a team won’t be supported there (by the fans), and they will immediately move it somewhere else when they can unanimously decide on a different (better) city in the southeast.

    • omyomy96 - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:08 AM

      Miami is yada, yada, yada, won’t support a team argument is old and tired. Over a decade has passed since then and a lot has happened to the league since then. Go back and change the teams from Miami to KC and make that same argument and it would sound good but not true.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:10 AM

        If they’re so supportive, then why won’t they pay for a new stadium? (You’re deluded.)

    • notaretard - Oct 15, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      “Am I crazy or does it seem like MLS is about to setup shop in Miami just to prove once-and-for-all that a team won’t be supported there (by the fans), and they will immediately move it somewhere else when they can unanimously decide on a different (better) city in the southeast.”

      seems to me more along the lines of the league is determined to prove that a team can make it in south florida and won’t go under this time around. try to head to a better city in the south? good luck. a) you’re talking about the south, so your options are limited and b) the only other southern city being consistently mentioned is atlanta, and miami is much more of a tourist town so i get why the league is putting it in the more glamorous city. other than atlanta, where in the south would have the size and interest? *maybe* charlotte but other than that, the south is american football country.

      speaking of delusions though, your analysis of why they’re choosing miami is a pretty good one

  8. charliej11 - Oct 15, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    Steve, why do you repeatedly ignore Seattle when you rip on large stadiums ?

    Do I think that large stadiums are perfect for cities outside Seattle right now ? No, but the “proper stadiums” (as one guy below put it) ALREADY are getting too small and will be even more so if attendance continues to rise.

    To be a proper (see how I turned it around) soccer league, 18k stadiums are just not going to do it. I think that places like DC are missing the boat in this regard. About the time they finally move, they will wish they had tried to buy and renovate RFK instead.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      You don’t build MAGNUM-sized stadiums when you’re a regular-sized sport.

      (Continue to) be yourself MLS.

      • chadmoon1 - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Funny!

    • Steve Davis - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      That’s incorrect. I’ve said repeatedly (over the years) that Seattle is an exception, but surely a shining example of how MLS and NFL can co-exist. A quick Google, I found this: “Later, Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks and Sounders) showed everyone how an NFL-MLS partnership should look. Those two, to borrow from Forest Gump, go together like peas and carrots.”

      Maybe I said it so much back in 2009, 2010, 2011 that I figured “it’s out there,” and haven’t reiterated the point frequently enough lately.

  9. hildezero - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Miami is one of the most overrated cities in USA. A lot of exaggerative, overly confident, and cocky people live there.

    • notaretard - Oct 15, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      i think that can be said about any population center with more than 10 people residing in it

  10. futbolhistorian - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    No offense taken. I was just talking about the gobledygook language from a Sports Marketing angle, not a investment firm point of view. Precisely my point.

  11. hildezero - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    You sir, are a straight up retard… :D

  12. chadmoon1 - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Florida in general, and Miami specifically, is a horrible sports town. And it won’t support soccer. Not because it’s not good, but becaue there you have to cater to the different ethnicities to get them to show up. Expect the Haitian crowd? You’d better have a Haitian player. Same with Hondurans, and every other flavor there.

    • footballer4ever - Oct 17, 2013 at 12:40 AM

      The concept you presented seems to be valid, but allow me to reply to such outdated view. Miami has smart and sophisticated fans that know better when they are presented with a gimmicky product or not. Therefore, the new Miami MLS club should better avoid to appease to any nationality in particular, but concentrate to bring the best players available regardeless if they are DP or not. The Fusion tried that technique and did not want to $pend and take the time to promote and develop it and just expected for people to flock towards Ft. Lauderdale blindly.
      For example, after the Messi charity tournament and Haiti vs Spain at Sunlife Stadium , RSE tried to bank on Honduras olimpic under 23 football team vs Boca Juniors and it ended up in a fiasco in which Boca Juniors easily pocketed a hefty reward and they ended up bringing their B team. By consequence of those sneaky promoters ways, there was not a good showing at all and it was a total loss for RSE and Sunlife Stadium. The GoldCup 2013 matches has a nice decent 28,000 crowd which was very energetic and live that would put any dolphins game to shame. After that , 38000+ attended the 5th and 7th place and the following day 67000+ fans attended the 3rd/1st place matches which ended with Real Madrid Vs Chelsea match.

      In other words, the product will speak volume in Miami. I hope the Miami football club is made similar to SSFC in which the fans are part of the club, not just simply “consumers” …..for that, you have the dolphins and the marlins.

  13. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Oct 18, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    Are there only 2 NFL/MLS ownership groups? If so, wouldn’t the success of the Seahawks/Sounders be an example of how to do it right? I understand that pessimism from the Boston example is easy to over shadow the amazing situation in Seattle.

    If more NFL owners use the Seattle model to build their Soccer teams, I think you could have a land rush for MLS expansions. It’s just a matter of looking at the numbers, the bottom line for owners and teams.

    Sounders total attendance as of today this season with a sold 67,000+ game to be played.
    682,436
    Dallas Cowboys (#1 in the NFL) total attendance 2012
    684,096

    The Sounders have more attendance than every single NFL team. That’s got to intrigue NFL owners considering Soccer plays twice the games which could be twice the profit.

    With Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), Joe Ross (Miami Dolphins) and the Wilf family (Minnesota Vikings) looking to merge their NFL interests with the MLS, we could see Soccer become a legitimate and broadly accepted major sport. And in America that means billions of dollars.

    If Soccer teams could pull in 40,000 per game, NFL owners would be fighting each other for an expansion. Twice the games with almost the same per game attendance? The U.S. sports leagues have 30+ teams. If you increase the number of teams, attendance, and TV contracts, your looking at the worlds most talented, richest and watched league. It could be a big deal for Soccer world wide. But, if these owners use the Kraft model, yikes, they could ruin the partnership for everyone else in the future.

    I understand the hesitation that NFL owners crudely run Soccer teams but if handled the way Seattle has, Soccer and MLS could go way beyond the tipping point.

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