A community-built timeline of events occurring prior to – and in the aftermath of – the October announcement that Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC may move the Columbus Crew away from Columbus, Ohio. We hope this timeline, made of publicly available information, will make transparent the actions of Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC and Major League Soccer.
@AEricksonCD tweets: “Can confirm there’s #MLS2ATX event scheduled tonight at Eberly restaurant in ATX. Hadn’t seen acknowledgement of it to this point. #CrewSC” Link to @AEricksonCD Tweet
@Morgan_Hughes posted an analysis on his Twitter feed, linked to here.
@degenerateTbone Is @APrecourt unfollowing forty accounts tonight including all of the Austin accounts he was following the last month plus (only started dissecting every move of his since 10/16) worth noting? #SaveTheCrew
“State Rep. Mike Duffey says he plans to ask Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to consider legal action to keep Columbus Crew SC from leaving town.
Duffey, a Republican from Worthington, said there’s a case to be made based on Ohio Revised Code 9.67 that came about after Art Modell moved the Cleveland National Football League franchise to Baltimore.”
A second article reports the comments of lawyer on whether there is a chance for success:
“”There are interesting possibilities just from the literal wording,” he said. “There’s a pretty strong argument that anybody in our municipal area might have standing to try to go to court to enforce, especially a group with an interest in buying the team. … (The city) can all sue to enforce that, but there’s a legal concept that if somebody is an intended beneficiary they might have a standing to bring a lawsuit.”
“Today is a big day for four cities vying for two MLS expansion teams. Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are scheduled to make formal presentations to the league’s Expansion Committee, meeting in New York.”
The former Crew striker spoke highly of his time in Central Ohio, saying that he “became a man” during his time with the Crew. He also stated that he does not see a way the Black & Gold remain in Columbus and criticizes Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer for their handling of the Crew SC situation.
Regarding San Antonio’s potential lawsuit against MLS, the full text of the report presented to Bexar County Judge Wolff by Bexar County DA office’s Schweniger is linked to below.
There is no doubt that the MLS expansion process has been unfair, unethical, and duplicitous. It is currently unclear, however, whether a fraudulent expansion process denied San Antonio the opportunity to secure an MLS franchise or whether Bexar County’s application partner’s unilateral decision to defer the application denied San Antonio the opportunity to secure an MLS franchise.
“Though nothing has been finalized, a new rendering from Crew SC majority owner Precourt Sports Ventures presents an alluring picture of what a downtown arena might look like — including a dramatic view of the skyline. The plan doesn’t include on-site parking, with a team representative saying it’s not necessary. “
“”The investigation found that the MLS process was unfair, unethical, and duplicitous, but that Bexar County does not have a legal cause of action at this time because the Spurs withdrew their MLS application. I accept the report and its conclusions.””
Austin is one of the few cities in America that doesn’t have a professional sports team. It’s a very young, culturally-important city. It’s been on our radar for many years. That doesn’t mean Columbus is moving, but it’s a good prospect.
From @DaSchott: “Sure we tried to make it work and even setup a meeting with Columbus and the Crew, but the Crew wasn’t interested. We don’t own the land, so the Crew can reach out to the land owner if they are interested.”
From Kurt Ludlow (@KurtWSYX6): “Letter from @MikeDeWine to @APrecourt regarding potential move of @ColumbusCrewSC to Austin warning of “potential legal action” from state of Ohio. #CrewSC #SaveTheCrew”
From @espnino74: “In October 2014 ,when #CrewSC launched the new batch I asked @LockCrewSC if they had a specific strategy to reach the Latino Fan Base. Since I was noticing a decrease in the Spanish coverage from the Club. This was his answer: “This is to encapsulate everybody in our market. This batch recognizes anybody who lives in the city of Columbus, the state of Ohio who wants to be a fan of Columbus Crew SC.””
Since the October 17 revelation that the Columbus Crew – a founder member of Major League Soccer and a previous league champion – were under threat of relocation to Austin, Texas for the 2019 MLS season by their owner Anthony Precourt, the fans in Columbus have rallied around its team with its grassroots #SaveTheCrew campaign.
Columbus was an essential part of the creation of MLS, and later became the first team in the US to construct a soccer-specific stadium. Crew fans have shown themselves to be true soccer fans by sticking by their team no matter what, as will be seen in this film.
The film also shows how Mr Precourt’s purchase of the team in 2013 led to an improvement in the team’s form, and how his past willingness to engage with the local fanbase was warmly received. Given the ongoing developments about a possible move to Austin, we have made sure to fairly present his arguments as publicly stated.
We can be fairly certain though that one of two things will happen here:
1) Various Ohio courts – tough luck on that one, eh? – will decide that the Crew will stay right where it is, thanks
2) An ugly, protracted legal battle which could take years to adjudicate will make a bunch of lawyers very rich and Don very unemployed.
Of course, as per usual, MLS has no comment whatsoever. Their media office has spent the last couple months refusing to answer the phone and that’s likely to continue. They ought to let them spend the Winter in Florida.
“What we’ve been experiencing in Columbus for many years, and we’ve been somewhat quiet about this, it is among the lowest teams, 20 out of 22, in every measure that matters in pro sports,” Garber said. “Average ticket price, average attendance, average revenue, their local television ratings, their local television deal, every aspect that is going to determine whether a team can be viable. And as our league continues to move in the right direction, we need to continue to have strong clubs.”
Importantly, Garber seems to confirm that there was an “out clause” for Austin in Precourt’s purchase contract:
“One final question on Columbus came from Fox soccer analyst Alexi Lalas, who asked if it was disingenuous for Precourt to have not made it public that the potential move was “contractually based,” referring to an Austin out clause in Precourt’s agreement to purchase the Crew in 2013 that has neither been confirmed nor denied by the league or Precourt.
“I don’t think so, Alexi,” Garber said. “We have a wide variety of things we do when we are in the process of building this league and bringing in owners and at the time Anthony came in, that was a team we were struggling to get a local owner for. We didn’t find that to be successful. We found a guy from San Francisco to do it.”
The alternative, Garber said, was Precourt not buying the team and, “I’m not quite sure whether that team would have continued and we are one team fewer and we’re not as successful as we are today.”
Alejandro Moreno: It’s the company line. It has been business metrics for a while. What I would say is that there are reports coming out of Columbus that give you the other side of the story and that is that the Columbus Crew haven’t had a presence in the community for a while. That the Hispanic outreach program is not quite what it used to be. That the activities that brought together the fans with the players are not what they used to be. If all of that is true, that is the ownership’s version of tanking, at least from the front office perspective. That is unacceptable. We need to see the other side of the story as well.
I’ve received many emails regarding the Major League Soccer stadium proposal and want to provide you all with an update on where we are in process and reiterate, while the idea of a soccer stadium is an exciting opportunity for Austin – I strongly assert it must be located in the right place.
There are a number of concerns I share with many of you regarding the initial suggestion for the Butler Shores location. That location is not the right place for many reasons. Extreme concentrated traffic impacts, challenging and limited access, stadium lighting and noise on the Barton Place condos as well as Zilker Park, surrounding neighborhood, and park land would add to an already overburdened area (given the impacts of ACL and other events for example).
The resolution passed in November directed the City Manager to identify city-owned sites and to include underutilized parkland for a Major League Soccer stadium and practice fields. The report back item is posted for this Thursday’s Council meeting as Item 92- http://www.austintexas.gov/edims/document.cfm?id=289851 Council is expected to discuss the item at work session on Tuesday, but unfortunately staff’s report will not be released until Wednesday.
This is no way to proceed on such a major council action that could involve the use of some of our City’s public parkland and particularly prime parkland along Lady Bird Lake. Any action must be thoroughly reviewed and must look for opportunities to increase access to parkland for our increasing population, not diminish access.
I will be advocating for the item to be removed from Council’s Thursday agenda at Tuesday’s work session. We will not have benefit of staff’s report in time for that discussion and a single day prior to Thursday’s meeting is simply not sufficient. If the item moves forward to Thursday, I will continue to argue for more time and exploration of opportunities to provide the public and Council the time that should and needs to be provided for such a major project.
To date the soccer interest, Precourt, is acting on its own – the city has not suggested or sanctioned or participated in any drawings of a stadium. Nor has city council approved the Butler Shores location or considered any location for that matter. The only action Council has taken is to direct the staff to create a list of all potential locations within the entire city – private land as well as public land.
You can count on me to oppose the Butler Shores location; to ensure that the public is involved in discussion of any location; and to properly vet any proposals.
As discussions about the Crew continue, we will keep our relationships and communication with the team and management positive and open. At present, we believe our community benefits by having the Crew represented on our board.
Of the eight properties recommended by city staff as prime sites for soccer, three are on parkland: Butler Shores Metropolitan Park, Guerrero Metro Park and the Travis County Exposition Center. Butler Shores is known to be Precourt’s favorite.
An October survey by Opinion Analysts, which polled 400 likely voters, showed three of four Austinites surveyed approve of bringing an MLS team to town. Almost 60 percent approved of the idea of a privately financed stadium on underutilized parkland.
“Our goal is to have the team in a temporary facility here in 2019 while a new place is being built,” he said. Precourt Sports Ventures President “Dave Greeley said the only thing preventing that is having the appropriate stadium site here. I think we can all come together to make that happen.”
Austin City Council will not act this week on a proposal for a stadium site for a Major League Soccer team in the city’s Butler Shores Metropolitan Park. Members could take up the subject again in February, based on a discussion at a Tuesday work session.
The Austin American-Statesman has reported that Precourt wants to have a stadium site nailed down by Jan. 1.
He [Garber] cited a lack of local support from fans and government in Columbus.
“You have a team down the road in Cincinnati that’s averaging over 20,000 fans a game,” Garber said. “The presentation that (FC Cincinnati majority owner) Carl Lindner and (FC Cincinnati GM) Jeff Berding made just the other day, it’s just hard to imagine they’re separated by 150 miles. It’s just incredible the difference between those two, and they’re playing in the lower division.”
He said he hasn’t seen concern among expansion cities about the possibility of teams moving out of the market because of the Columbus situation.
“The level of public support is significant,” he said of the four expansion candidates. “We haven’t seen that in Columbus.
“Maybe Columbus should look at what Detroit and Nashville and Cincinnati and Sacramento are doing and think, maybe if this thing is turned from where it was to where it needs to be, that the Crew might have been more successful.”
Minton told me the firm represents a number of clients in the Columbus business community and felt there was a conflict in continuing to represent the team. The firm made the determination with the team on a mutual basis.
While the attached preliminary report provides valuable information, staff plan ton continue exploration and have a more comprehensive analysis for Council consideration on or before the February 15, 2018 Council Meeting.
“We believe the the [sic] Crew are coming to Austin and look forward to them bringing pro soccer to our city,” Epstein said Thursday. “Logically, we stopped work on building a facility or hiring staff upon their announcement.
“If their plans change, we would be happy to re-energize our efforts, but at this stage, we are nearly too late for 2019.”
A long list of companies whose sponsorships end after 2018 are mentioned in the article (e.g., Kahiki, Land Grant, Pursuit). Also of note is that jersey sponsor Acura, whose sponsorship runs through 2019, had previously said the following:
“This isn’t just a local investment,” Acura spokesman Tom Peyton said when the deal was announced. “Certainly we’re able to have an identity here, but it’s wonderful to go to other key markets for Acura … and have that local and TV exposure that goes along with that. MLS has a real opportunity by being able to sell that opportunity.”
Thousands of people who will be heading to the theaters this weekend to see the new Star Wars movie will also see a new effort to stop the Columbus Crew SC from moving to Austin. Crew supporters made a short commercial to make the case for what’s at stake if the team leaves.
In setting the table for Major League Soccer coming to Austin, we offer this advice to Precourt Sports Ventures, which owns Columbus Crew SC: Don’t pretend Central Texans don’t drive; don’t be stingy with community benefits; and let Austin residents vote.
Well, Google recently announced its top 10 trending MLS teams of 2017 as part of their annual “Year in Search,” a showcase of the people, topics, places and events that drew the most attention throughout the year.
This week, the league is expected to announce which two cities will be awarded expansion franchises. If Cincinnati gets one, among the takeaways will be that the league is appeasing the state (goodbye lawsuit?) and greasing the tracks out of Columbus. Precourt is on record as saying he wants to choose an Austin site by Jan. 1, and he has eight plats for a stadium and/or a practice facility from which to choose. Things may be well-settled by the time the Austin City Council votes on the matter in February.
Fact: on Nov 30, 2017, amateur soccer blogger Josh Babetski announces that “first 100” pins were available to MLS in Austin supporters. Link to Tweet
Fact: on 21 December 2017 blogger Josh Babetski again mentioned that “first 100” pins are available. Link to Tweet
Fact: Babetski has access to Precourt Sports Ventures personnel, had early access to information about the October 17 announcement, and is on PSV’s committee in Austin. Link to Source
Despite direct PSV support, it looks like Babetski has failed to sell even 100 memberships with free pins. Either there isn’t broad support for MLS in Austin, and/or amateur blogger Babetski needs some marketing advice.
Before we can determine whether Ohio can use eminent domain to take control of the Crew, we need to make sure that the Crew is something that would fall under the broad definition of “personal property” — that is “the tangible or intangible assets of a legal person.” Luckily, we can dispense with this step very quickly: the Crew is a set of legal entities, contracts, and other economic relationships that are broadly structured under the umbrella of a single corporation which is controlled by Precourt Sports Ventures, a legal person. Because the definition of “personal property” is so broad, then, the Crew would certainly be “personal property” that can be “taken for public use,” so long as the state pays the owners “just compensation”.