The Columbus Crew’s potential relocation to Austin has prompted a lawsuit from the state and city the club currently calls home.
Major League Soccer and Crew owners Precourt Sports Ventures are being sued by the Ohio attorney general and the city of Columbus. A suit was officially filed on Monday, citing the “Modell Law,” which was passed in response to Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell moving the team to Baltimore in 1995. According to the law, any team receiving government funding must give six months notice of a move as well as an opportunity for local owners or groups to buy the team before relocating.
According to the suit, the Crew have accepted millions in tax-funded improvements and an economic development agreement, as well as property tax exemption and a below-market lease on MAPFRE Stadium.
The suit asks the court to to prevent the Crew from moving without notice and to provide “a reasonable opportunity to buy” the team from Anthony Precourt.
“Today I have filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to try to #SaveTheCrew and keep the black and gold in Columbus,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Loyal Crew fans in Columbus have invested their time and loyalty in this team, and they have allowed the Crew SC to capitalize from financial incentives paid for by their tax dollars. I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed.”
“As I have said, we believe Columbus Crew SC belongs in Columbus. We have a rich history of professional soccer and some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in the league,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther (D-Columbus). “Just as importantly, the team plays in a taxpayer-supported facility, and Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer have accepted financial assistance from the state of Ohio and the City of Columbus. State law provides us with this protection.”
“I am very pleased that our state’s top law enforcement officer is vigorously enforcing longstanding Ohio law,” said State Representative Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), a leader in the #SavetheCrew effort. “The Crew SC is our team. Our town. Neither the MLS or Precourt Sports Ventures can operate above Ohio law.”
In turn, MLS and PSV released a joint statement:
Joint stmt. from MLS/PSV to @DispatchAlerts: "Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures are aware of and are reviewing the litigation filed by the Ohio Attorney General. MLS and PSV will make an additional statement tomorrow following a review of the complaint." #CrewSC
— Andrew Erickson (@AEricksonAU) March 6, 2018
Just last week, Precourt reiterated his desire to move the team to Austin in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman.
“We came out in October a week before our playoffs started and announced we were committed to exploring Austin. I think that says it all,” he said. “We put it out on the line, and we’ve taken a lot of heat for this.
“Austin scores extremely high across any survey or metric. This is a very robust economy. We have a sense of confidence that the business community and fan base would embrace the team.”