Behold, the splendor of the Class of ’92, the Manchester United academy grads turned Red Devil legends who will forever be linked with the club’s history. Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, and Gary and Phil Neville have more than a badge in common; they are all also involved — or at least trying to be involved — in club ownership.
The shiniest of these Manchester golden boys, David Beckham, has been wrestling with local Miami officials and swatting away red tape in his quest to finally find a home for his proposed MLS expansion franchise. Land deals have fallen through, agreements with politicians have changed without notice, and the voter base doesn’t seem too interested in providing public assistance (or a real indication that it even wants a team).
The mighty investor group’s plans, lead by Beckham and Marcelo Claure, haven’t gone according to schedule. The opinion that a Miami club will never materialize and MLS will instead look to more secure options like Sacramento or Minnesota, at least in the short term, is starting to circulate, and doesn’t sound remotely unreasonable.
Meanwhile, before the start of this season, the other five members of the Class of ’92 — along with Singaporean businessman Peter Lim — have taken a collective 50% stake in Salford City, a semi-pro club in the second division of the regional Northern Premier League. To get an idea of where Salford City stands, the club’s long term goal is to reach Football League (full professional) status sometime in the next 15 years.
Salford City doesn’t have a glamorous name, nor does the club play for trophies that kids grow up hoping to lift. Salford is no South Beach and doesn’t offer the exposure or competitive levels that have been presented to Beckham via MLS. But none of that seems to matter to the Class of ’92, who seem to love their roles as fledgeling owners, and in the case of Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, part-time managers.
Despite being in third place, Salford City’s manager was fired and replaced on an interim basis by the owners themselves. Who wouldn’t love to be in that position? After years of playing and watching the game, saying, “I can do better,” Scholes and Neville have worked to put themselves in a place to do just that.
Yesterday, the pair took to the team bench and managed the “Ammies” against Kendal Town. Club Chairwoman Karen Baird said that Neville “was like a big kid! He was very excited. I think he wants the opportunity to do it every week.”
She continued, jokingly: “I did tell [Phil Neville] before the game that he had to win otherwise he was sacked. We just held on in the end.” That’s a hell of a thing to tell one of the people who sign your checks. Or maybe that’s a sign of the atmosphere and environment that Class of ’92 is fostering. Luckily for Scholes and Neville, Salford City would get the 2-1 win.
The Salford City project is a sharp contrast from Beckham’s ownership adventure. Beckham opted to go solo and try to set up shop in one of the most glamorous cities in the world. The Miami project is certainly a building project and by no means in a “global” league, but it’s a venture that would come with instant press and sex appeal, before a ball was ever kicked.
Starting Miami FC, or whatever they’d call it, is Beckham buying a brand new Porsche 911 (in a world of Lamborghini Aventadors, but still). Salford City is the rest of the Class of ’92 banging away in a garage to restore their ’67 Mustang.
There’s something appealing about the idea of taking a shot at a dream and creating something with friends. Friends who have become like family, with a 20-plus year history. Salford City may be the more difficult project to manage, take more time to establish and come with smaller financial rewards for the foreseeable future, but it seems like the project with more meaning.
A small club with standing ties to the community and an ownership group making their way for the first time has meaning that’s easy to comprehend. People write books about that sort of thing. But Beckham’s Miami project, although one day it could certainly become a great investment of time, money and effort, still sounds like it would be the less fulfilling option.
Going big and making a name for yourself is great, but laughing with your friends over beer because the club you own just lost to a bunch of plumbers and gym teachers sounds like a lot more fun. Who knows, maybe Beckham would have preferred to join the rest of his class in Salford, but his brand wouldn’t allow it. Then again, maybe he thinks his friends are suckers, fighting for small potatoes. Everything is relative, even between friends who are basically relatives.