MLS won’t bend for Beck­ham’s fran­chise bid

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By REUTERS in Toronto

Ma­jor League Soc­cer would love to see a new fran­chise in Mi­ami backed by David Beck­ham, but there will not be a new team in South Beach un­til a sta­dium deal is in place, com­mis­sioner Don Gar­ber said on Tues­day.

Gar­ber re­peat­edly em­pha­sized MLS is keen to work with Beck­ham, but was equally firm it will not bend rules for the for­mer Eng­land cap­tain and a sta­dium deal must be in place be­fore an ex­pan­sion fran­chise is awarded.

“We can’t go to Mi­ami with­out the right sta­dium so­lu­tion,” Gar­ber said dur­ing his state of the league ad­dress ahead of Satur­day’s MLS Cup fi­nal in Kansas City.

“David un­der­stands that, the city un­der­stands that, that is an in­dis­putable fact.”

The charis­matic Beck­ham and trendy Mi­ami al­ways seemed the per­fect fit to bring pro­fes­sional soc­cer back to a city where the sport has twice be­fore failed to take root.

But Beck­ham’s con­sid­er­able charm is be­ing put to the test in Mi­ami as he as­sem­bles an own­er­ship group that still needs to buy a fran­chise and build a sta­dium the team will call home.

Find­ing the right lo­ca­tion for a sta­dium and fi­nanc­ing is not easy in Mi­ami. Tax­pay­ers have soured on pub­licly­fi­nanced sta­dium deals af­ter a $500 mil­lion sta­dium with a re­tractable roof for Ma­jor

We can’t go to Mi­ami with­out the right sta­dium so­lu­tion.” DON GAR­BER MLS COM­MIS­SIONER

League Base­ball’s Mi­ami Mar­lins failed to draw fans.

The state leg­is­la­ture re­buffed a re­quest from the Na­tional Foot­ball League’s Mi­ami Dol­phins for pub­lic fund­ing of a $350 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion of the team’s pri­vately-owned sta­dium.

“We are very ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity of hav­ing David put to­gether an own­er­ship group and fi­nal­iz­ing a sta­dium site in down­town Mi­ami so that we can end up hav­ing what we hope will be our 22nd team in a city that has a very strong, pas­sion­ate fan base — but there is a lot of work that needs to hap­pen,” said Gar­ber.

“Part of that is con­tin­u­ing the dis­cus­sions that the own­er­ship group has been hav­ing with the city and the port site and po­ten­tially other sites.”

The league will hold a board meet­ing on Fri­day, but Gar­ber con­firmed the Beck­ham group would not be pre­sent­ing a spe­cific pro­posal for ap­proval.

Last month Or­lando be­came the league’s 21st fran­chise and will be­gin play in 2015, adding more spec­u­la­tion Mi­ami would soon fol­low with MLS’s am­bi­tious plans to ex­pand to 24 teams by 2020.

But Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s At­lanta Fal­cons, may have jumped to the front of the queue ahead of Beck­ham.

“With At­lanta we have fi­nal­ized the sta­dium sit­u­a­tion,” said Gar­ber. “We have to con­tinue to work hard with At­lanta to make sure this whole project makes sense for them, but I am en­cour­aged by the dis­cus­sions.

“At­lanta is a big mar­ket. We need to be in the south­east and if we can con­tinue to ad­vance our dis­cus­sions pos­i­tively with Arthur and the Fal­cons, we hope to be able to get a sit­u­a­tion fi­nal­ized.

“That could po­ten­tially be our sec­ond team, Or­lando be­ing the first.”

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