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Ohio attorney general, City of Columbus sue Crew ownership, MLS

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:

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.”



  1. It’s doubtful MLS is going to be in a hurry to put another team in Ohio, “cincy” if it’s getting sued by the state. Welcome to MLS Sacramento or Detroit

  2. I found something interesting during of last year’s playoffs. Chicago played their first home field playoff match in years. During the half time break, Continental Tires featured Lalas celebrating the culture of soccer fandom. That was immediately followed by a mini rant by Stewart Holden about Precourt putting the knife in the backs of Columbus Crew fans. Incidentally, that game was played in front of about 8000 hardcore fans in a stadium that is located in a gritty industrial district not even close to downtown Chicago. That’s roughly 60,000 less fans that attended the Atlanta – Columbus match. Maybe the Fire should be looking for a deal in Austin.

    The Hunt family has consistently supported soccer in America. When they had the courage to build MLS’s first soccer specific stadium, there were no guarantees that MLS would even survive. Soccer has a unique sport culture that is built on tradition. Referring back to the Lalas commercial, soccer fandom is built from the ground up, not from the top down. The Hunts have pioneered that concept. Moving the team to Austin makes the Hunt’s investment in growing the American soccer culture meaningless. MLS should not be a play thing for ego driven wannabe power personalities who have skipped the hard work but like the glamour. The fan culture needs to be built, not bought. MLS should require Precourt to sell the team before moving it

    If the attendance numbers have dropped in Columbus over the years, that’s a management issue. Blank / ATL have reached out to fans from every demographic category. His team has turned their soccer game experience into the best party in the city. Building local relationships takes imagination and hard work. The ATL folks went so far as to provide fans in the less affluent areas with public transportation schedules that coordinated with the stadium events. The message is that EVERYONE is welcome, not just the fat cat luxury box crowd.

    Precourt has not done that in Columbus. He may have reached out to local business leaders to be sponsors, but he has done a poor job at actively reaching out directly to potential fans. I have family in the Columbus area who have no recollection of any local activities where the Crew did more than pay lip service. If anyone remembers first news conference as the Crew owner, he was generally negative about the Crew’s un hip working man image. It seems that Austin was on his mind from day one. I’m sure that he (and some MLS execs) prefer the glamour of Austin’s SXSW to mundane old Columbus.

    I am an MLS fan generally speaking. I usually watch one or two matches per week. But being a fan of the game does not make me a fan of the league itself. There has always been a dark underside to MLS where the backroom boys are able to hijack transfers and change rules on the fly to benefit certain situations. It’s the equivalent of gerrymandering voting districts, but the “single entity” model masks what most people would consider to be unethical behavior.

  3. i have been thinking about this columbus thing. i have an opinion and now seems the right time to share it.

    lawsuits aside, i think you CANNOT move a club, because by the definition of a club it is a PART OF THE CITY. (except in the usa i guess where they call them “teams” and they just move them around like it doesn’t mean anything.)

    mls is a business. i think it’s within their rights to say, “division 1=x average attendance and x season tickets and x tv contracts and x stadium deal, etc.” and if an mls team doesn’t meet these requirements, then knock them down to division 2 (indefinitely until they meet the requirements). thus creating a vacancy in division 1. perhaps Austin could fill this vacancy? or perhaps another City can? but imo the crew and columbus are both part of each other and therefore cannot ever be separated.

  4. “Here Austin, I’m giving you this shiny bauble. I stole it and shat all over it, but it will be all yours some day! You love me right? …please say you love me….”

  5. Ohio sports owners are the best:

    Cleveland had Art Modell (moved the Browns to Baltimore)

    Cincinnati had Marge Schott (Reds; was a Nazi before Trump made being a nazi cool again, NBD but KBD (jk, but not really jk))

    Columbus now has Precourt (flips assets to make a quick buck; also maybe for sport, a la the most dangerous game)


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