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Business of MLS prepare for Beckham departure

MLS club chiefs accept the departure of LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham to AC Milan would be a major setback. "Everything the league and Galaxy have done has been influenced by (Beckham) at some level," said John Guppy, founder of Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing and former CEO and president of the Chicago Fire. "David's not a player, he's a brand, and losing him would be a business setback."

The Galaxy turned increased crowds into profits by increasing average ticket prices from approximately $21.50 before Beckham to $32 afterward. The team created some of the highest-priced season-ticket packages in the league, and in 2007 it cleared a league-high $7,436,529 in full-season-equivalent revenue and accounted for 21 percent of the league's full-season-equivalent revenue, according to an MLS ticketing report.

Other teams benefited, too. The Galaxy drew a record-setting average of 28,814 spectators for its away games in 2008 and helped 11 of the league's 14 teams attract their largest crowds of the season.

Beckham also provided a major lift to the league's TV viewership. MLS matches on ESPN2 featuring Beckham averaged 68 percent more viewers than games without him in 2007 and 23 percent more in 2008.

"We have sponsors who came in the year we brought [Beckham] in and there are things we'd need to do for some of them," Tom Payne, the Galaxy's president of business operations, told the Sports Business Journal. "Our value increased the day we signed him."

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