UPDATE: Beckham’s CSL ambassadorial role now confirmed: details below

Becks: on the mic, not on the pitch
Becks: on the mic, not on the pitch

(UPDATE: Deal is for one year, not three as reported by QQ. Terms still not announced, but People’s Daily reporting Becks is getting 2 million euros ($2.6 million) for his troubles, paid in large part by a sponsor, so at little cost to the CSL).

David Beckham’s much discussed ambassadorial role for the Chinese Super League (CSL) will see him visit China three times this season. His Excellency will miss the league’s opening ceremony on March 8 due to UEFA Champions League commitments with PSG (though he could appear by video link or recorded message), but Becks will likely come at the end of March is due to arrive in Beijing on March 21 (PSG don’t play March 18-29 inclusive) and will stay in China for about a week, also visting Shanghai and Guangzhou. He’ll return at the end of May after the French season ends on May 26, and will visit a third time in November towards the end of the CSL season (UPDATE: when he’s expected to be a captain for – but not play in! – the CSL All-Star Game).

The news was confirmed on Friday by Yu Hongchen, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and Chairman of the CSL. Yu didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but IMG – who helped broker the deal – told me it was a one year agreement (though QQ are reporting a three-year deal). The money – again, not confirmed – is reported to be an annual sum of 20 million yuan (roughly $3.2 million) (UPDATE: Source told me this is “not even close”, but whatever the true sum, he’s clearly getting decent money – plus whatever he can make in endorsements on the side – for what amounts to three brief visits to China).

Beckham’s role has variously been reported as promoting Chinese soccer overseas (strange, given that he’s never played in China, and his off-field involvement is hardly likely to have international viewers switching on in their droves), attending a series of promotional events in China and taking part in youth soccer activities.

The league said all the usual things about the agreement: great signing, give the league momentum, will increase fanbase etc, but it’s going to be hard to convince soccer fans to watch Beckham NOT play. Sure, teenage girls will turn up in their thousands, but are they the CSL’s target audience? Beckham has yet to retire – and is even making noises about extending his contract with PSG – so real fans want to see him on the pitch, not off it.

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