The Independent newspaper recently published an article about the forthcoming announcement of David Beckham opening a MLS franchise in Miami. The author spewed lazy stereotypes that many US soccer journalists, bloggers and fans have hurled at Miami for years. They recite the reasons why the market is a failure, a “soccer graveyard” as the author puts it. They criticize the low attendance for a US-Honduras match (21,000), conveniently ignoring the fact that the game was played in the middle of a tropical storm. It’s almost as if the Miami haters want the franchise to fail before it’s even been announced.
Hearing people talk bad about Miami when they don’t even live here is irritating. It’s like insulting family. Yeah, you can talk about a family member but if someone else does it, the gloves are off.
I admire that Beckham has faith in Miami and that he’s willing to give the market a shot. Previously, MLS (and its marketing arm SUM) had only thought of Miami whenever they wanted to occasionally promote the sport to the Hispanic market. In terms of TV ratings for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and previous MLS seasons, the impressive TV ratings make the media market highly coveted. And with a name like Beckham involved, the league finally knows that this market can be tapped
Beckham’s name and involvement is a major factor, no doubt. If Beckham wasn’t involved, Miami businessman Marcelo Claure would still be very silent and doing the same thing when he botched the FC Barcelona-led Miami deal a few years ago.
From the outside, Miami is viewed as a city known for its fast cars and hot women. There is luxury galore in this town, no doubt. But if you look closer, Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States. I remember speaking to someone that is heavily involved in the sports market, and he told me something that really stuck in my mind. “Miami is all about image.”
He couldn’t have put it better.
People lease BMWs so they can turn heads, yet they can barely afford rent on their efficiencies. During the housing market collapse, I heard many stories of people losing houses that cost $300,000-$500,000. Yet they earned eight dollars an hour working in retail or fast food. These stories were rampant in Miami.
True fans of teams like the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins have been shut out of being able to go see their teams play. To pay $60-$135 for seats puts sports into perspective. Especially when families are faced with choosing between feeding a family or going to see their favorite team play.
The sports fans that can afford the ticket prices are the ones living in the bubble. They’re the ones sitting in the bottom bowl of the American Airlines Arena. The ones who arrive in the second quarter and leave halfway through the fourth. Those are the ones that are marketed everything here. For them, it’s a matter of being seen, and not about supporting a team. They are part of the glitz and glamour that has earned Miami a reputation of being an event town.
The real people that live here, who work the 9-5 jobs, are the ones who are rarely marketed to. They’re the ones who can occasionally afford a seat for a Miami Heat game, in the 400 level. You know, those are the people that the cameras never focus on. Those fans that are sitting way too high up to get a shot to grab any T-shirts being flung into the stands. Those fans are always the ones left in the dark.
Hopefully Beckham and his investors won’t hire the publicity agencies that implement the same methods of trying to attract people to come to a club. The answer is not to have flyers passed around near The Clevelander hotel over on Ocean Drive. The agencies need to get into the heart of Miami by going to places like Churchill’s (a watering hole that’s a local institution) and Fiorito over in Little Haiti and in surrounding areas.
Recent soccer events in Miami have painted a very positive outlook for a MLS team to come to the area. Events such as the International Champions Cup, and other friendly matches, such as Barcelona-Chivas de Guadalajara were a smashing success. Later this month, Brazil’s national team will return to Miami for the first time in a decade, where the record soccer attendance of 70,080 will likely be smashed when Brazil plays Honduras on November 16 at Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Dolphins.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross understands the business potential for this sport to grow to the next level, with a local team for fans to support throughout the season, not just for one-off games. It’s no wonder that Ross is teaming up with Beckham. The two of them together can create success where others have failed in South Florida.
Sun Life Stadium has changed so much since the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) baseball team left the premises. The Marlins ruined pretty much everything they put their hands on. They ruined a chance for Miami to be a World Cup venue in 1994. And, more recently, they ruined the friendly game between Nigeria and Venezuela at their new state-of-the-art stadium in downtown Miami, which didn’t have the sight lines for soccer.
Miami is not a “build it and they will come” type of town. Miami is a town that follows winners. If they fail to win, fans will find other things to do.
Second chances are very rare in sports. If Miami gets another chance, the city will have to take full advantage of the opportunity. The Miami haters across the United States, and even in South Florida, will want the team to fail miserably. But if there is one thing the City of Miami does well, it’s that it proves people wrong. David Beckham, we’re ready for you.