The Los Angeles Galaxy are among the worst run football clubs anywhere on the planet and among the worst run professional sports franchise in the United States. So it should come as no surprise to those of us that follow Major League Soccer that David Beckham’s arrival stateside has been fiasco. The Galaxy bought a player solely for marketing purposes and then tried to build a football club around a marketing tool and thus gutted the perfectly decent set up they previously had at the Home Depot Center. The generosity of the Galaxy management has allowed several other MLS teams to acquire quality footballers for a the equivalent in some cases of a 2 litre bottle of Coca Cola. This has made the 2007 Galaxy among the most uncompetitive squads in the 12 year history of MLS. At the very same time the little sister who pays rent to the Galaxy to share their stadium is currently sitting 27 points ahead of their landlords.
The treatment of David Beckham by the Galaxy has brought Major League Soccer as well as football in the United States in general into complete disrepute across the Atlantic. As Times columnist Martin Samuel noted last month, ” We did not expect his (Beckham’s) new employers to not have any respect for his health or general welfare.” This statement is very poignant. Beckham’s new club for better or for worse is being judged as an outfit set on exploiting the world’s most famous footballer for financial gain. Again whether this is true or not can be bitterly debated but what is true is that perception across the Atlantic where MLS needs to improve its reputation is that the team and league have taken a careless attitude towards protecting England’s precious commodity David Beckham. If MLS is perceived to have destroyed Beckham’s career through the football equivalent of medical malpractice (ie. putting a half fit player on a pitch on a steamy summer evening and forcing him to play 90 minutes) surely no more players of stature or for that matter those who care about their own bodies will gravitate to Major League Soccer from the British Isles. Perception is reality and judging by the British press, not only is MLS judged a substandard division when even compared to the lower rungs of the Football League in England, but now it is being judged by Samuel and others to have deliberately sabotaged a player’s well being for financial gain, thus reinforcing (again rightly or wrongly) the perception many Europeans have of American corporations and society to begin with. Now the fact that Real Madrid conducted much the same sort of charade with Beckham, exploiting him for marketing and public relations purposes seems to have been lost on many across the pond despite the very open criticism by none other than Galactico Roberto Carlos himself of Real’s handling of Beckham. After all Real Madrid is one of the most popular football clubs anywhere, and the LA Galaxy is well, the worst team in a bad league played over the summer months when Footballers of any stature are on holiday in the South of France. (again the perception of many in Europe)