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A 2012 Chance for David Beckham?
One citizen reporter's suggestion to the new L.A. Galaxy star
Peter Hinchliffe (Hinchy)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-16 08:02 (KST)   
A winter gale is whistling down from Yorkshire's Pennine Hills, blasting rain into the faces of the 22 footballers on the pitch in Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium.

Once-mighty Huddersfield Town, the Terriers, are playing Cheltenham Town in a League One game.

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Spectators huddle in their seats. So strong is the wind that it is driving the icy rain sideways, under the stand roof.

Only 9,800 fans have ventured out from their centrally-heated homes to watch the Terriers in their blue-and-white striped shirts play Cheltenham, who are 23rd in the 24-team League.

Ken Davy, the owner of Huddersfield Town, announced a few months ago that even if an average of 12,500 show up at Town's 23 matches in the 46-game season, the club will lose nearly $900.000 this season.

So far the gates are averaging less than 10,000. Town are in trouble. In 2003 the club almost went out of business.

This then is the true face of English professional football. The majority of the 92 professional teams -- divided into four leagues -- struggle to survive. They live hand to mouth, hoping a millionaire football fan will come along to bail them out.

Football in League One is not even within shouting distance of football in the Premiership. The glamor clubs of the Premiership are known world-wide. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. TV coverage of top English football is beamed weekly to more than a hundred countries. Premiership footballers are bought and sold for as much as $60 million.

David Beckham, the former England captain, who played most of his football with Manchester United, and is currently with Real Madrid, was last week signed to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy on a reported $250,000,000 five-year contract.

OhmyNews reporter Michael Clough reported: "America's Major League Soccer and the Galaxy will be hoping that the global brand that is Beckham can bring new fans and revenue streams to the club and competition with the MLS struggling for credibility in the cluttered U.S. sports market and among football fans worldwide for whom the competition usually doesn't register on their radar."

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Despite his falling stock on the pitch, Beckham still remains one of the most marketable sports stars on the planet, especially in the emerging football market of Asia. Beckham is also not without a profile in the United States although he is more well known in the U.S. for his marriage to former "Posh Spice" Victoria and high profile friendships with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes."

Huddersfield Town made losses of $275,000 in 2003-04 and $775,000 in 2004-05. In 2005-06 they reported a profit of $122,000 -- which is not much more than Beckham will be paid weekly in Los Angeles.

Back in the 1920s Huddersfield could claim to be the best football team in the world. They were First Division (forerunner of the Premiership) champions three years in a row. Only three teams have repeated that feat -- Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Down the years they have had famous fans, including Prime Minister Harold Wilson who went to school in Huddersfield.

In the early 1960s, when I was a reporter for the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, I interviewed Mr. Wilson on the steps of a local hotel at one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.

He gave me his best grin. "Huddersfield Town are playing at home this afternoon," he said. "You don't want much from me. No room for politics. It will all be football."

Town's most famous fan today is actor Patrick Stewart, Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He was born just three miles from the Galpharm stadium and has been a fan since boyhood.

Patrick left school when he was 15 to work as a reporter on a local weekly paper. He was deeply involved in local amateur dramatics. His editor eventually gave him a choice -- acting or journalism. Unfortunately, he made the wrong choice. (Only kidding, Patrick).

Next year Huddersfield Town AFC will celebrate its centenary. Would the club be missed if it went bankrupt? You bet it would.

Bill Shankley, a famous Town manager of the 1950s who went on to build great Liverpool teams, once said: "Football isn't a matter of life and death. It's far more important than that."

There are Web sites on which some of Town's most easily displeased fans call for the club's manager, Peter Jackson, to be sacked; for Ken Davy to sell his shares and get out.

If either of those appeals were heeded, it would not alter the grim reality of English football: the wealthy clubs flourish -- the rest languish.

Now here's a thought. After five years with LA Galaxy, David Beckham will still have some football left in his legs. What if he had not only to be the richest English footballer ever, but had to round off his career with another spectacular "first ever."

What if he were to buy an English league club? What if he owned, managed and played for the club -- a first time triple.

By the time 2012 comes around, David, you will be used to the Hollywood life-style. But please remember, Huddersfield Town already has its own Hollywood link.

* Huddersfield beat Cheltenham last Saturday 2-0. All is not lost!
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Peter Hinchliffe

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