David Beckham To Join AC Milan – Scandalous Decision?

We have seen how the career of David Beckham blossomed from his debut at Manchester United at the age of 17 to his now tired club appearances for LA Galaxy. For all our misgivings about Beckham being a self-promoting fashion icon rather than professional footballer, one thing is clear, the man never gives up. During his time at Manchester United, Beckham won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. In 2003, he left Old Trafford for Real Madrid and many critics deemed him a loser after four barren seasons. Yet he emerged from his Spanish stint in 2007 with a major trophy – La Liga championship title, before leaving for Major League Soccer.

David Beckham Join AC Milan

Recently, his international career picked up… for no apparent reason. All thanks to England coach Fabio Capello, Beckham has been steadily accumulating England caps, without any eye-catching performances. He was fielded as a late substitute in each of England’s World Cup qualifiers this year, playing a total of 28 minutes for his four caps. The total tally for Golden Balls is 107 England caps and he will equal Bobby Moore’s all-time appearances by featuring against Germany next month. That would leave David Beckham 17 caps shy of Peter Shilton’s long-standing record of playing 125 times for his country between 1970 and 1999.

Shilton is clearly unhappy with the manner in which Beckham has closed in on his record. He said: “I didn’t think it was justifiable at all to bring him on with two minutes to go against Belarus. I couldn’t believe it. You had Shaun Wright-Phillips on the pitch as well and I couldn’t see what reason there could be.”Certainly, any self-respecting footballer will prefer to earn his cap by making significant contributions to the team rather than to receive hand-outs from the coach. But to be fair, a goalkeeper enjoys longevity and can last the entire match because there is less physical demand on the body.An outfield player will have to burst his lungs running up and down the pitch, fighting for possession, creating chances as well as enduring malicious tackles. In this respect, I will cut Beckham some slack and accept his role as a substitute, while breaking records along the way.I am fine with cameo appearances so long as the team’s fortune is not compromised by the 33-year old midfielder whose pace is long gone and can only deliver spectacular free-kicks once in a blue moon. If Beckham can put in even more commitment and hard work than his peers, I keep faith with Capello’s decision that Beckham’s England days are far from over.

Coming back to Beckham’s club career, I am surprised that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. His insipid performances with La Galaxy over two seasons is a disgrace. For the amount of money he wringed from the club while it suffers from a double whammy of falling gate receipts and poor economic conditions in America, I believe not many fans will shed tears over the sacking of David Beckham.Actually, if Beckham can’t survive in the Major League Soccer, the answer is obvious on his usefulness to clubs harboring title ambitions. Yet, AC Milan surprised all and sundry with their unsettling, if not scandalous, decision. The Italian club has confirmed that David Beckham will join them on a short-term loan deal during the MLS close season.Golden Balls now has a chance to feature in both Serie A and UEFA Cup matches for an illustrious club and hopefully justify to his detractors, his continued presence in the England team. The LA Times seems to be none too sad about this development when it reported last week that “the Beckham circus could fold its tents and the club could go back to being what it once was competitive in MLS”.This statement is fair except for the term “competitive” which is at odds with the entire setup at LA Galaxy. In the past four years, Galaxy have accumulated 41 wins, 55 defeats and 27 draws in the regular season. Only Real Salt Lake, a new MLS franchise, has fared worse.

Currently, LA Galaxy lie second from bottom of the Western Standings, with no chance of reaching the playoffs. This is a repeat scenario of Beckham’s first season in California. Galaxy’s record of eight wins, 13 defeats and eight draws represents a failed experiment in creating a “sexy championship team” with David Beckham on the roster.David Beckham’s contributions to LA Galaxy stands at a paltry five goals and 11 assists. These are hardly the sort of statistics that will interest AC Milan, a seven-time European champion. Yet, the Rossoneri were clearly rubbing their hands in glee, probably in anticipation of more fans and merchandise sales.Despite Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti’s declaration that the Rossonneri would like to make the proposed move permanent, the Galaxy captain insisted that he will be back in California for the start of the 2009 MLS season. He said: “I will be back. My commitment is to the Galaxy and that has not changed.”“It’s a two-month spell, maybe a little longer. Milan have got a great team, so I’m not expecting to go straight in the starting line-up. I will have to earn the right to get into that team. I’m in Serie A form. It’s about getting my fitness up.

“I came to the Galaxy to actually win trophies so I want to do that. I’m also very committed to my role as the MLS ambassador as well. It’s been slightly disappointing because we haven’t made the playoffs again.”Does AC Milan really need the 33-year-old England midfielder for footballing purposes? The squad is already overflowing with exceptional talents which include FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka, along with fellow Brazilian internationals Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato.Experience is rich with veterans Clarence Seedorf and former sharpshooter, Andriy Shevchenko returning to his favorite hunting ground after a miserable time at Chelsea. And not to forget, an array of Italian World Cup winners: Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Gianlucca Zambrotta, Maldini and Alessandro Nesta.In such a competitive club, it is difficult to imagine Beckham breaking into the first XI on a regular basis. Former Gunners, Mathieu Flamini, has only played four matches (3 domestic and I European), so it is a wonder if Beckham can even make it onto the bench, especially when he is already old, has never tasted Italian soccer and defense never been his forte.

Traditionally, big name players who were over the hill struggled to carve a name for themselves when they arrived at AC Milan. Ronaldo was overweight and out-of-form when he arrived at the San Siro from Real Madrid in Jan. 2007. The Brazilian scored a few goals but never regained his lethal form.His ruptured ligaments ruled him out for nine months and AC Milan privately confirmed that Ronaldo would never play for them again even if he made a full recovery. Ex-Italy forward Roberto Baggio was among other top players who failed to hit their earlier heights after signing for Milan.Financially though, it could be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both club and player. Initial reports reveal that AC Milan will only take Beckham on a ‘free’ loan, meaning that the Italians would not fork out money to LA Galaxy and would just pay part or none of his wages.Milan are cash tight at the moment following the purchase of Ronaldinho from Barcelona, so they will be glad to take Beckham for pennies on the dollar. Beckham, as one of the world’s most famous sportsmen, is a marketing machine which singlehandedly propelled Real Madrid to the richest club in the world with lucrative sales of replica shirts and other revenue generating opportunities.

Consider the mania which greeted the club the day after Ronaldinho joined in July. Milan fans snapped up over a quarter of all the season tickets sold up to that point and hits on the website were 10 times the average.As for David Beckham, the fashion-conscious superstar is already well-known in Italy and models underwear for famous Italian designer Giorgio Armani. Billboards of his half-naked body already span the country, so his effect on Milan fans will be nothing short of spectacular.However, one has to be careful of Beckham’s waning appeal amid the current economic crisis. Last season, Beckham drew a crowd of 66,237 to Giants Stadium in New Jersey to watch him play the New York Red Bulls but this season the attendance was 46,754.FC Dallas had a crowd of 22,331 when David Beckham came to Pizza Hut Park in May, up from 14,600 when Galaxy played there without him last June. But the attendances fell to 8,960 and 8,541 for each of Dallas’s next two home games, signs that Beckham’s impact is only ephemeral.

Galaxy’s owners, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) has not committed to the deal but coach Arena has already highlighted his displeasure: “I don’t see where that benefits MLS or the Galaxy. Given the position the Galaxy is in, it would seem very odd to me if we were loaning out our top players at the start of the season. ”Despite a sticky start, AC Milan are getting into the groove and looking like Serie A title contenders. The Beckham circus could unfortunately disrupt the balance and upset a few key players. Maldini was reportedly happy with the signing though.On his team’s good run of form, Ancelotti attributed it to his defense, saying: “Favalli, Bonera, Maldini, as well as all the others, have improved individually as well as in a team sense. But the credit also goes to the strikers, who are able to move well on the pitch without ever leaving too much space behind.”Ancelotti said of Beckham: “I wouldn’t just loan him, I’d buy him. He’s still a valid player who can be useful to us, and we can be useful to him. He will not be a tourist.”

But he remained ambivalent about Beckham’s role in the team. “If Beckham wanted to train with us, it wouldn’t be a problem for me.” No mention of Beckham featuring for the team.It will be interesting to see if Ancelotti can find a slot for Beckham and bring out of the best in him. The intense competition with Ronaldinho and Kaka will spur Beckham to outperform himself, which will ultimately work to the benefit of England… that is, if it works out at all.

Portsmouth’s Administration Must Prompt Premier League To Examine Bad Practices

There is something to be said about Portsmouth going into administration – with debts of around £70 million, it became the first Premier League club to achieve this dubious honour and gave a stark reminder that the entrapment from the richest league in the world will be insufficient to shelter a mismanaged club from financial woes.For better or worse, the Premier League has been largely spared by the financial crisis and economic recession in the last two years, what with transfer fees and wages spiralling upwards while austerity measures were frowned upon, but in the fullness of time, one must expect the day of reckoning to arrive when the limit to how much debts a club can rollover or snowball is breached.

Portsmouth is facing its darkest moment currently. Entering administration means the club is virtually certain to be relegated when their 19 point tally is slapped with a 9 point deduction. With only 11 matches left to preserve their Premier League status, Pompey has to win at least 7 games, which is a tall order even in the best of circumstances.Are they up to the task? Last Saturday, Pompey displayed enough gumption to edge out fellow relegation candidate Burnley in a morale boosting 2-1 victory. Portsmouth struck through Piquionne but a Martin Paterson goal returned the scoreline to parity and it was up to Algerian Hassan Yebda’s penalty to settle the game.

The fans can take heart from this victory; even if the cause is lost, the players are determined to fight for their pride. Manager Avram Grant, who shaked hands with the travelling fans after the game, said: “Despite everything, we were fighting today. You saw the spirit today, you see the real trait of people in difficult days. I still believe, I want to stay positive.”Let’s hope the troops continue to respond positively to Avram Grant’s rally. However, it will take all of Grant’s abilities to steer the ship when the administration soap opera is underway. Firstly, the ship is now rudderless. Chief executive Peter Storrie has tendered his resignation instead of staying on for a nominal salary to sort out the financial mess which was created during his tenure.

Last year, he took home more than £1 million when the club is already insolvent. I can understand paying good money for top talents but what is the point of having a chief executive if the club is going to be run into the ground? Employing a minimum wage cleaner in that position will suffice. There should be a clawback in Storrie’s bonus or he returns the bonus willingly but that is just wishful thinking.Instead of feeling remorseful, Peter Storrie looked on “favourably” on his eight years of service. Portsmouth fans will beg to differ. Questions abound over Storrie’s leadership and ethics but at the moment, transparency and accountability are in short order.

While wages at the club are high and the tattered ground is too small to generate sufficient revenue but where did the television money and transfer money from the sales of players like Diarra, Muntari, etc go to? Why wasn’t the money used to pay down mounting debts?Andrew Andronikou, from Hacker Young, has been installed as chief administrator and he has promised to review all expenses and open up the books, even calling in the police if money laundering is uncovered. Andronikou has a reputation for doing the right thing so Portsmouth fans should not jump the gun on any alleged wrongdoings (on Storrie’s part or the owners).

There is little love lost for Peter Storrie but in the coming weeks, there could be more departures. Avram Grant is unsure if he will stay until the end of the season. England goalkeeper David James, the most experienced member in the squad, has volunteered to take a pay cut than be shown the door. The relegation battle could be made easier if other highly paid footballers in Portsmouth share the same sentiment.The priority for the administrator is to find a buyer for Portsmouth but this is easier said than done. To make matters worse, the stadium and surrounding land is no longer owned by the club, thanks to financing deals made by “fit and proper” owners.

Balram Chainrai made a £17m loan loan to previous owner Ali Al Faraj in return for mortgages on Fratton Park and the club. Chainrai became Portsmouth’s fourth owner of the season after the club defaulted on repayments due to him.The inability to find a suitable buyer sparked his controversial move into administration but as a secured creditor, it gave him priority after football creditors (like players, staff, etc) to be repaid. Ironically, Balram Chainrai is likely to emerge again as Portsmouth’s owner. In the absence of new investors/suckers, regaining control of Portsmouth with the debts largely wiped out will allow him to preserve his investment and possibly profit at a later date.There are other legal disputes awaiting Portsmouth too. It has been sued by former defender Sol Campbell for £1.7m for unpaid image rights. The football club is also involved in a separate dispute with former owner Gaydamak over whether they have missed a deadline in paying a £9m chunk of the £28m they owe him.

Pompey must also enter a Company Voluntary Agreement for unsecured creditors by the end of the season or start next season with another deduction of at least 15 points which could result in another relegation into the Championship and put off any potential buyers.On the bright side, Portsmouth will be a more stable and financially viable Championship side. Administration is definitely the lesser of two evils compared to a winding up order and there are already four interested parties circling in. The winding-up process, started by HM Revenue and Customs, due before the High Court this week, will be suspended automatically.

Andrew Andronikou has requested for a meeting of the Premier League board to ratify the nine-point deduction. He will also try to overturn rulings that prevent them from selling players outside the transfer window. This rule is too cumbersome for the administrator. If players have not contributed enough to justify their high wages and refuse to take pay cuts, the direct way to reduce the debt burden is to sell them, rather than waiting for several months to take action.With Portsmouth going into administration, it is set to receive outstanding payments from the Premier League – including parachute payments paid to relegated clubs – totalling £36 million.

The Premier League has also given Portsmouth written permission to raise £20m against the promise of the future funds. However, the League will retain about £16m to pay off football debts. Besides the advance payments and raising of fresh capital, negotiations forcing creditors to take a haircut and offloading of redundant players will make the £70 million debt less daunting.

Increase the Surface Area of Your Organization – Thoughts from Linkedin’s Talent Connect

Twenty-five years ago, just a couple years into my career, the head of the advocacy organization I worked for said to me "build relationships with your young colleagues. They’ll be running the country one day. These organizers, canvassers, beat reporters will be running companies, in congress, and editing the nation’s leading papers.”At the time it sounded preposterous.  Now, of course, it’s true. Relationships matter and the better job we do of building, sustaining and deepening relationships the more likely we are to succeed at work and life.  

Today, technology enables these professional relationships – our professional networks – to be more helpful and more powerful than ever before (both ways – technology makes it easier for us to assist others, not just for us to be assisted).Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media) observed on the final day of Linkedin's Talent Connect Conference that each Linkedin connection adds surface area to your network. That’s a VERY helpful way for nonprofit leaders to think about networking.

Cause leaders want to have as much of this kind of “surface area” as possible.  And we want it in as many areas as possible – in the business community, with funders, with elected and government officials, with the media, with academics, in our own area of expertise, outside our expertise, etc. This should reinforce for us the importance of building and tending to our own professional network. But even more important it suggests the enormous latent power in the networks of people who care about our cause – our staff, board, volunteer mentors, donors, corporate partners, etc. 

If you are connected to me I increase your surface area as my Linkedin InMapbelow illustrates. Here’s the fun thing. When I add people to my network I add value to YOUR organization’s network. 

And this is my HUGE TAKE AWAY from Talent Connect...

Everyday millions of people put time and effort into their professional networks on Linkedin. When they do this work they create value.They connect to someone they met in DC. They reach back to reconnect with a colleague from 25 years ago. They make an introduction to help the career of another. They add to and share their knowledge.  All of this work is being done, and will continue to be done, without you or your organization spending any time or resources. Yet this represents enormous potential value for your cause

This is because hundreds and possibly thousands of the people doing all this work are your organization’s stakeholders. They are your board, staff, volunteers and donors – past and present. You can turn this potential value into immediate, real value by simply getting organized and getting connected. You'll immediately increase your surface area. Whether you are trying to recruit great people, share your story, or build access and influence, your increased reach will increase your chance of success. 

There's even passive power in your growing network. Each time someone sees that a trusted colleague is on your board or is connected to your cause you plant a seed. Go plant a lot of seeds. 

If you are trying to change the world, trying to figure out how to leverage digital tools to help you succeed, you are not going to find much lower hanging fruit than this.  Create a culture in your organization of intentional networking and relationship building and go tap the latent value of your existing and future network on Linkedin.

Asking Still Matters: Creating a Culture of Asking and a Giving Revolution

My friend and colleague Andrea Kihlstedt is our first guest thought leader. Andrea is the co founder of the brilliant site Asking Matters and the author of Capital Campaigns, Strategies that Work (Jones & Bartlett) now in its third edition.Andrea's innovative thinking around using technology to support major/donor fundraising has been an inspiration to me. She has challenged me to see opportunities I absolutely would not have seen. If you are helping a nonprofit raise money (staff, board, friend of, etc.) please read this post and share the post and Asking Matters.

It’s easy and fun to give on-line today. Kickstarter, Donors Choose, Kiva and a host of other sites make it a click to give to projects near and far with little muss and no fuss. Many of these sites harness the principles of great fundraising—a goal, a timetable, donor recognition, reporting and great communication. What they lose is the person to person, face to face focus on asking.Over a long career as a capital campaign fundraising consultant, I’ve worked with dozens of organizations that have quadrupled or quintupled their income from charitable gifts through a campaign. Organizations that raised, for example, $600,000 annually, raised $3,000,000 or more through a campaign.

What is it about these campaigns that makes such a difference? The answer is quite simple. Campaigns create a culture of asking. They set the stage for staff and board members to get out and ask.With the current crisis of under-funded non-profits, I wondered if we couldn’t harness the power of the internet to get more people out asking. Not just any kind of asking, but face to face, person to person asking. And not just asking anyone. But asking people who have the ability to give, an interest in the organization, and a personal contact with the organization. So I connected with my former colleague, Brian Saber, one of the best fundraising professionals I know. And together we set about creating a platform to help staff and board members find the will and the courage to get out and ask.We figure that if we can motivate even one-quarter of the 1,250,000 nonprofit organizations in this country to ask more and ask more effectively, we can help create a giving revolution. And in doing so, we can make a big difference in the world.

Penelope Burke in her 2011 Donor Survey found that 49% of the respondents said that they could have given more to charitable causes. According to the survey “Capturing that elusive next level of philanthropy is the issue, of course.” Brian and I know from experience that the way to capture that elusive next level of giving is through more person to person, asking.Asking Matters is the result of our work. Asking Matters provides a robust set of materials, some free and some for a fee, to help people learn how to ask in the way that suits them best. Our simple but revolutionary system of Asking Styles (complete with an on-line assessment) sorts people into four categories, Go-Getters, Kindred Spirits, Mission Controllers and Rainmakers, and outlines the ways in which people of each style can approach asking.

Free to everyone are over a hundred short videos of board members, executive directors, development directors and consultants sharing their experiences asking.In addition to the basic material, members have access to free webinars, a robust knowledge base of material about asking, and a variety of motivational tools.The platform serves organizations small and large, beginners and experts. It’s a valuable and fully affordable resource. We have small schools and social service organizations and large national organizations using the site to provide a common language of asking to their board, staff and volunteers.Consultants use the Asking Style system with their clients to get people talking about asking. And development directors use it to find better ways to support the people who are asking in their organization.

We know, of course, that the importance of asking extends far beyond the non-profit community. When we get good at asking, the world opens up to us. So perhaps this is just the first step in making the world a better place.Find your Asking Style. Are you a Go-Getter? a Kindred Spirit? a Mission Controller? Or a Rainmaker? Take the Asking Style Assessment. Let me know what you think.

Roberto Mancini Midfield Balancing Act To Accommodate Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira has returned to the Premier League on a six-month contract with Manchester City. His name may still evoke respect from his opponents but one should bear in mind that the feisty midfielder is no longer the box-to-box field Marshall we last saw of him in an Arsenal shirt. For now, as with any arrival, there is a great sense of anticipation. Manchester City’s hero Mike Summer bee had welcomed Patrick Vieria at the training ground and spoke of how he played until age 40. Vieira, who is turning 34 in June, will have been encouraged to know that age is not a stigma at City.

To be sure, even in the fast paced Premier League today, it is possible to have a long career without any significant decline in performance. Evergreens Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are good examples but the injury plagued Patrick Vieira is a risky bet.Patrick Vieira’s trademark tenacity in keeping and fighting for possession has become harder to execute with age. In fact, two former Arsenal team-mates, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, believe his best days are over.

To which the Frenchman retorted: “I have nothing to prove to anybody. I just have to believe in myself. I know what I am capable of and I am back in England because I feel I still have something to offer. And City believe in me as well.”How long the goodwill in Manchester City last is unclear. For now, Vieira is making all the right noises for the benefit of his new club. He emphasized that Manchester United have lost their aura of invincibility, especially with the departure of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Indeed, Manchester United’s dearth of attacking options has been compounded by an increasingly challenging Premier League. Besides the traditional Big Four, Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa are also gunning for glory. The humiliating 1-0 defeat by Leeds United and fortunate 1-1 draw with Birmingham reflected Manchester United’s struggle to battle on all fronts with limited resources.Not that Alex Ferguson needs any reminder and there is always a price to pay for stoking his competitive nature. The two Manchester clubs will clash in the Carling Cup later this month and emotions are set to run wild. It will be a time to settle old scores too as Vieria’s last kick for Arsenal was a penalty which cost Manchester United the FA Cup in 2005.

Rekindling intense rivalry is one thing but it is quite another to reinforce Manchester City’s title pretensions. Patrick Vieira has echoed Roberto Mancini’s sentiment that City could achieve the top prize this season.So far, Mancini’s immaculate win record in 4 games since replacing Mark Hughes has left City fourth in the Premier League table, 7 points behind leader, Chelsea. They are definitely in contention for the title if we considered that Arsenal came back “from 15 points behind in one season.”

The owner, Sheikh Mansour, will actually be contended with a top four finish to justify his spending and account for half a season of “no progress” under Mark Hughes. Thus, talking up title hopes is something which Mancini and Vieira should refrain, lest it backfires on them.