MIAMI – Former England captain David Beckham was officially awarded an Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in Miami on Monday.
“It is with tremendous pride that we welcome Miami to Major League Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement.
“We know the right people are in place and the time is right for Miami to become a great Major League Soccer city. This ownership is committed to bringing Miami the elite-level soccer team, stadium and fan experience it richly deserves. We look forward to working with the entire organisation on a strategic and successful launch for Miami's MLS club.”
Beckham first announced his plan for a team in the South Florida city four years ago but has faced a series of problems in finding a suitable venue and has adjusted the consortium backing his plan.
Beckham and his consortium of backers held an event with local politicians and fans in downtown Miami on Monday.
But the ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder, whose right to a discounted franchise was part of the deal which brought him to play in MLS in 2007, says the problems are now history.
“It has been a process. It's been painful at times,” Beckham told Miami's Local 10 News station.
“I think the fact that it has taken this long, the fact that it's taken four years actually has worked as a positive,” he added, saying he has been able to develop a deeper understanding of the city and its fans.
“I've always believed in the project. That's why, for me, I never gave up. I knew Miami was the city. I knew this was going to be special.
“There have been many (hurdles),” Beckham said. “I'm a persistent person and I don't like to lose.”
The Beckham group had two different plans for waterside stadium venues both defeated and were unable to secure a deal for a third location close to the Miami Marlins baseball arena.
The latest proposed site is in the Overtown neighbourhood where the group has purchased six acres of land and has an agreement for three more acres after a deal with Miami Dade County authorities.
That plan has also faced local opposition, including a legal challenge from businessman Bruce Matheson, and must still gain zoning approval, but Beckham says there is no doubt the Overtown site is the one his team will call home.
“This is our site,” Beckham said. “This is a site we have paid for. This is a site we plan on using.”
The franchise rights will cost Beckham $25 million, according to multiple reports, which is well below the market rate.
The owners of Los Angeles FC, which joins the league in March, are reported to have paid over $100 million for their franchise rights.Reuters