ESPN paid David Beckham's management company to produce a one-hour documentary on the soccer star that aired two years ago, according to a new book on the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.
"The Beckham Experiment," by Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl, call's ESPN's payment to management company 19 Entertainment for "David Beckham: New Beginnings" an "example of checkbook journalism" and labeled the show a "Beckham Brand infomercial."
Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, during the same period in 2007, denied interview access to Beckham for ESPN The Magazine and approached Sports Illustrated with an exclusive interview that landed Beckham the SI cover for its July 16, 2007, issue, Wahl wrote. That was around the time of Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy debut.
"We hired 19 Entertainment to produce a special on Beckham. It was not something that came out of our news and information division of the company," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Wednesday. "It was a programming arrangement We did provide editorial input to the show. 19 Entertainment was credited."
The book is scheduled for publication on July 16, when Beckham is scheduled to play his first match for the Galaxy following a half-season loan to AC Milan. In an excerpt in SI last week, Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan questioned Beckham's commitment to the team.
Los Angeles, which failed to make the playoffs in each of Beckham's first two seasons, is portrayed as a team beset by management infighting involving Anschutz Entertainment Group chief executive officer Tim Leiweke, former president and general manager Alexi Lalas, coaches Frank Yallop and Ruud Gullit and Beckham personal manager Terry Byrne.
Donovan said Lalas, a former U.S. national team star who was fired by the Galaxy last August, was "in over his head" and "trying to do too much." Wahl says that under Gullit, the Galaxy failed to devote a single practice to set pieces during the 2008 preseason, even though set pieces are Beckham's specialty.
Lalas, according to the book, overrode a media vote in favor of Donovan as the team's MVP in 2007, giving the award to Chris Klein. Donovan found out and argued, saying it cost him a $25,000 bonus.
"Landon got his money because he cried, but I still looked him in the eye and said: 'I don't personally believe you're the MVP,'" Lalas is quoted as saying.
The book says Beckham, following a career with Manchester United and Real Madrid, found Major League Soccer's travel accommodations "shocking." After dissatisfaction with Sheraton Braintree in Massachusetts, when the team played at New York it stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan instead of the Secaucus Sheraton in New Jersey.
"I knew from the moment I talked to our staff and our players that something needed to be done, and it needed to be done quick," Lalas was quoted as saying. "That means upgrading the travels, the hotels, the meals. David's involvement obviously facilitated it."
Buy The Beckham Experiment at Amazon.com