Selling of Beckham under way

The selling of David Beckham in America got off to a brisk start with fans snapping up his new soccer jersey and his first game already sold out.

updated: July 15, 2007 17:48 IST
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Carson, California:

The selling of David Beckham in America got off to a brisk start with fans snapping up his new soccer jersey and his first game already sold out.

Adidas has shipped 250,000 of Beckham's No 23 jersey to stores in the last few days.

"They're a little surprised," said Tim Leiweke of AEG, the Los Angeles Galaxy's parent company.

"They knew it would be good, they didn't think it would be that good."

Beckham gets an undisclosed percentage of every $80 jersey sold, with Major League Soccer also sharing in the profits. The Galaxy only makes money if jerseys are bought at its team store at Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy is paying Beckham $32.5 million over five years to boost the struggling team and the sport's low profile in America.

"David has paid for himself," Leiweke said. "This has been a good financial investment."

Tickets are sold out for Beckham's first scheduled game on July 21, a friendly against Chelsea.

And the team plans to put on sale 2,000 tickets for a grassy berm overlooking the field, which would bring the stadium to capacity of 27,000.

The Chelsea match will result in the Galaxy's second-highest grossing game behind last year's date against Real Madrid, when Beckham played for the Spanish league team.

Sold out

The stadium's 42 luxury suites are sold out for the first time in the team's brief history, the majority of club seats are sold, and more than 10,000 season tickets have been sold - up from 8,000 last year, Leiweke said.

"Everything straight across the board has had a significant increase," he said, declining to disclose exact figures because AEG is a privately owned company.

Leiweke believes the biggest growth opportunity for the Galaxy is international touring. The team has announced a game in Australia in November, and dates in Asia and Beckham's
England are being lined up.

"We're mindful of giving David some rest," he said.

AEG has been a business partner of Beckham for two years, having launched his namesake soccer academy at his new Home Depot Center home ground.

"There will be a lot of other things we look to do together," Leiweke said.

He wants the Galaxy to be considered one of the top soccer teams in the world, on par with Chelsea. To do so, Leiweke said, the team needs to generate $100 million in yearly revenue.

"We have to double our (current) revenue," he said.

"It's probably not going to be driven by the gate here because of the restrictions from an attendance standpoint."

The team's television contracts expire in the next few years, and Leiweke indicated renewals would be worth more.

Beckham's debut is set to be broadcast live on ESPN, and AEG will be watching the ratings closely.

Despite all the talk about money, Leiweke insisted that acquiring Beckham is part of a bigger investment in Major League Soccer.

"Can David ultimately prove to a lot of other players around the world that it's OK to come play in this league?" he said. "If that happens, then David has left a legacy."