The current media hype surrounding David Beckham’s next move has reached its zenith as the English star this week announced his departure from LA Galaxy.
The A-League has once again become the focus of attention for football columnists from New York to London.
After the local game grabbed its fifteen minutes of fame with the signing of Alessandro Del Piero, this resurgent global interest comes as a welcome déjà vu for Australian football supporters.
Considering that little has been said from Beckham’s management about a move to the A-League, we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves in predicting where the one-man-brand will end up.
It’s just as likely that Beckham will finish his career in Paris or Dubai, where he owns property.
At present, neither Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar have shown any interest in signing Beckham, preferring to steer clear of the often-disruptive marquee player roller-coaster ride. In truth, neither club particularly needs David Beckham anyway.
Melbourne Heart, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United and the Central Coast Mariners have reportedly all expressed their interest, with John Singleton even offering his beach house to the Beckham family.
However, playing the pokies at Iguana’s will certainly be a step down for the A-List celebrity couple. And if the Gosford club were to pull off such a coup, it would force Graham Arnold to quickly recontextualise his much-vaunted no marquee players policy.
This article, however, is not interested in what’s on offer for the Beckham family. Of more pressing concern is how the A-League can utilise his presence to grow the competition.
There are two reasons why David Beckham would be a good fit at Perth Glory.
Firstly, with three high-profile players already spread across New South Wales, the Eastern Seaboard is already awash with marquee talent.
Each of these signings have proved a boost for the profile and performance of their respective clubs, perhaps most notably Alessandro Del Piero at Sydney FC.
If the Central Coast were to somehow lure Beckham, the competition would be increasingly New South Wales oriented. While this would make for some cracking derbies, it may be a bit of a celebrity overkill.
Geographically spreading out marquee talent will only benefit the league as a whole.
Secondly, Perth is home to a large British migrant population. In fact, Perth Glory’s ‘Britishness’ has even been the subject of academic inquiry.
Tara Brabazon, in her book Tracking the Jack: A Retracing of the Antipodes, makes the case that Perth Glory were founded at a time when David Hill was ‘Anglicising’ the National Soccer League in order to mobilise “a distinct, Antipodean incription of Englishness to counter what he (Hill) frames as destructive migrant prejudices.”
Similarly, in 1997, NSL general manager Stefan Kamasz commented happily that going to a Perth game was “like being at an English game” while the ‘Studs Up’ fanzine wrote that “recently arrived Poms and Scots come along to enjoy the atmosphere of a game just like ‘Home.’”
Currently, Perth are flying the British banner in the A-League. With Scotsmen Ian Ferguson and Steven McGarry alongside Irishmen Liam Miller and Billy Mehmet, signing an Englishman would round out their British appeal.
While the Glory do have a multicultural support base, they are framed by their Britishness.
In this context, what better way to bring the crowds back than to sign English football royalty? Tony Sage recently complained about the cost and re-construction of NIB Stadium, which has reduced the seating capacity considerably. However, with David Beckham in the team, the Glory could potentially fill Subiaco Oval.
It is ironic that Perth Glory – the club that provided the model for the A-League – have not been able to replicate their NSL success in the new competition.
Sage has already made it a personal ambition to sign Beckham. Boosted by its resource-rich surrounds, the city and the football club are both on the rise.
Beckham-inspired sell-out crowds and international exposure are no less than the club deserves.