David Beckham’s long rumored “extended loan” has finally been announced; the Galaxy midfielder will complete the Serie A season with AC Milan before returning to MLS in the Summer. Reports also state that Beckham will contribute a substantial amount of his own funds to the deal. As part of the agreement, AC Milan will play a July friendly against the Galaxy in Los Angeles. The friendly with AC Milan will necessitate the rescheduling of the Galaxy’s match with New York from July 19 to July 16 (a Thursday night).
Given ESPN’s new MLS schedule, it makes sense that the League and the Network will bill the NY game as Beckham’s return performance and showcase the match in prime time. The Beckham games at Giants Stadium have been very well attended, and have provided some of the best soccer of his MLS tenure. As part of the announcement, the Galaxy also stated that they will be discounting tickets by 10% for the season and refunding 10% to those who have already purchased tickets.
The 10% refund is reflective of the difficulties in building a business model around one player. A large number of fans bought tickets to see David Beckham, not the Galaxy or their opponent (certainly there has been a huge upside for the League as awareness and exposure is way up over the last three years). Teams have continued selling 4 game packages and other promotions around Beckham’s visit to their stadium. However, when he is hurt (as in his first year) or not around (as for most of the 2009 campaign), you get disappointed customers. At the same time, the “hard core” fan gets turned off by the focused promotion.
Whether you think the Galaxy, MLS or AC Milan won or lost these negotiations (and opinions certainly run the gamut), Beckham’s overall economic impact on the League cannot be disputed. We discussed that at length here. For now, the Galaxy have a little extra cap room to utilize because Beckham’s “max” cap number will be pro-rated, and for a few months, the League can focus its attention on the coming expansion announcements and the inagural season in Seattle.