LONDON — Officials from Anschutz Entertainment Group today will announce a deal to create youth-oriented soccer academies in Los Angeles and London with British star David Beckham, arguably the best-known player in the world.
The Los Angeles-area academy will be at Home Depot Center in Carson, the sports complex that AEG, the firm backed by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, developed.
"We are committed to the sport long-term," AEG President Tim Leiweke said. Referring to Beckham, he said, "To have the sport's most important brand is important to us. It gives us instant credibility."
After years with Manchester United, Beckham, 30, switched in 2003 to Spain's Real Madrid in a deal worth about $40 million. He has served as captain of England's national team and was the inspiration for the movie, "Bend It Like Beckham."
Outside the U.S., newspapers, magazines and television crews lavish constant attention on Beckham and his wife, Victoria. When she recently gave birth to the couple's third child -- a boy, Cruz -- a British bookmaker gave 100-1 odds the boy would one day play for England's national team.
In a statement, Beckham said that he had as a boy attended an academy run by another British soccer legend, Bobby Charlton. He said, "Ever since then, my ambition has been to give children the chances I had and thanks to [AEG] that dream is now a reality."
Plans for the London program, which is scheduled to open this summer, call for 15,000 boys and girls, ages 8 to 15, annually; 10,000 would attend for free through British soccer channels.
Full details of the Carson program are to be announced later this year. Leiweke said the intent would be to start with weekend sessions during the school year and five-day summer programs, adding, "The goal, the hope, is to grow it to full time."
AEG owns five of the 12 Major League Soccer teams, including the Galaxy. The team plays at a 27,000-seat stadium at Home Depot Center. The center also includes, among other venues, nine soccer training fields.
The partnership with Beckham underscores the reach of AEG's business strategies. The firm that developed Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles and the Home Depot Center is, in addition to venues elsewhere in Europe, a key player in the redevelopment of the area surrounding the Millennium Dome in London, where it is building an arena and entertainment district. The Beckham program in London will be run on two full-size soccer fields next to the dome.
The dome is included in London's plan for the 2012 Olympics. If the International Olympic Committee chooses London on July 6 to stage the 2012 Games, the dome would serve as the gymnastics venue and the site of Olympic basketball finals.
Four other cities are vying for the 2012 Games: Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York.