Columbus or Austin? Fallout from Crew SC's possible exit continues

While executives from Precourt Sports Ventures, owner of Columbus Crew SC, were in Austin, where they tried to make the case that the city was ready for MLS soccer, the fallout from the MLS club's possible exit from Columbus continued and #SavetheCrew mobilized.

The club's policy for season tickets required that fans opt out before Sept. 18 if they did not want them renewed. That was almost a month before owner Anthony Precourt announced that he was considering a move to Austin.

NBC4 in Columbus reported that Crew SC will not issue refunds to those fans who paid money toward 2018 season tickets and were upset about the team's possible exit in 2019 after 23 years in Columbus.

Case for Austin. Precourt and Crew SC president David Greeley argued to Austin media outlets that the Texas capital has the potential to be a great soccer town and they weren't using Austin to get a better deal out of Columbus or would consider moving elsewhere.

Precourt termed Austin an "untapped" market in an interview with the Austin Statesman and suggested soccer's past history of failure in Austin -- lower-division pro teams left or folded after the 2010 and 2015 seasons -- was not indicative of the market's potential.

“Did you anticipate that Atlanta would be a good soccer market a year ago?” Precourt said. “Did you anticipate Orlando would be a good soccer market a few years ago? Portland?"

Mayors in agreement. Precourt told the Statesman that Precourt Sports Ventures could privately finance a stadium in Austin; it only needed the right stadium site.

Columbus mayor Andy Ginther told NBC4 his city wasn't going to foot the bill for a new Crew stadium to replace Mapfre Stadium. In an email to the Columbus Dispatch, Austin mayor Steve Adler also said he didn't think there was support for public funding of a stadium in his city.

Support from fans around MLS. The Independent Supporters Council, representing MLS supporters groups around the league, asked MLS commissioner Don Garber and Precourt to "work diligently with the City of Columbus and its faithful supporters to keep the team where it started. We call on franchise owners of all other MLS clubs to urge Mr. Garber and Mr. Precourt to negotiate in good faith."

In response to a tweet from a Portland fan upset about what was happening in Columbus, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson tweeted that "nobody is happy about this,"  then clarified that he did not speak for the Crew ownership but it was "far from happy about situation." Those tweets were no longer available but grabbed in a screenshot.

No more 'us' in Columbus. Precourt tried to apologize for what he was putting Crew fans through, tweeting that "I take full responsibility for the situation I have put us in." Three minutes later, he modified his last statement, tweeting, “put you all in, not us.”

Precourt asked that fans support Crew players and coaches as they begin the playoffs. But the "us" in Columbus, at least as far as Crew ownership and fans go, had been removed this week.

14 comments about "Columbus or Austin? Fallout from Crew SC's possible exit continues".
  1. Thomas Weber, October 20, 2017 at 8:52 a.m.

    Little Lord Precourt (LLP) should pursue an expansion team in Austin. He planned all along to make an Austin move and starved the organization/facilities the last few years to now make his case for uprooting an original MLS team. MLS needs to force a sale to Columbus local ownership and let LLP be an aloof, distant and proven untrustworthy owner in another community (if MLS so chooses). We are thankful for all the support from around the country/world. Special shout out to FC Cincinnati, who maybe have a better claim to an MLS team if Columbus gets screwed, but they (unlike our Little Lord) have class and know Ohio can fully support two awesome clubs. #savethecrew

  2. don Lamb replied, October 20, 2017 at 10:05 a.m.

    As someone who roots for Columbus because of the way that they play, I find their fan support to be very worrisome. They simply do not show up. How can you fault an owner for exploring alternatives when the current market does not support the team? And this is during a successful run in the franchises history. What would happen if they had a couple of lean years?

  3. :: SilverRey :: replied, October 20, 2017 at 10:27 a.m.

    @Don - Yet they still avg more p/g than the majority of European leagues

  4. don Lamb replied, October 20, 2017 at 2:16 p.m.

    All due respect, but I why do those numbers matter to me when I'm watching a great game on tv and can't help but wonder why the people of Columbus and surrounding areas can't show better support? Precourt has absolutely no use for those numbers either. Selfishly, a better crowd would make my experience watching on tv much better. Poor attendance affects MLS' tv audience negatively, and at a time when media contracts are so valuable this has to be factored into the equation.

  5. Jeff Mccullough replied, October 21, 2017 at 11:35 a.m.

    As a Crew season ticket holder from day 1, I am sickened by the threat to move. While I understand the lack of attendance and lack of corporate sponsorship being problems, if the Columbus leadership is willing to get a new stadium and ponies up more corporate sponsorship, MLS should demand the Crew stay. I just attended the Crew game at Orlando and saw a vibrant scene before, during, and after the game. We absolutely would have that in Columbus with a downtown stadium. 

  6. R2 Dad, October 20, 2017 at 9:59 a.m.

    The Sept 18 deadline bait-and-switch is the same kind of shenanigans parents exerience with their pay-to-play kid's soccer clubs changing coaches at the last minute. So we should be used to this unethical behavio, right? Because soccer in this country is all about the owners, not the fans who pay the bills.

  7. don Lamb replied, October 20, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.

    If the fans pay the bills, that is exactly why this team needs to move. The fans are not supporting the team in any numbers that would preclude something like this from happening. If this is how they show up during good time, how many people are going to be there during down years?

  8. R2 Dad replied, October 21, 2017 at 3:30 a.m.

    Don, you make it sound like iit's the fans fault Precourt doesn't adequately market the team--it's not. If Precourt thinks his team isn't generating enough income, maybe he just needs to cash out. Garber should offer to buy the team for $75M--that's way more than he paid for it. Maybe MLS runs the team for a year or two until a new ownership group is found. This sole owner problem is part of the reason why MLS has recently gone for large groups of famous owners who like the idea of owning a piece of a team.

  9. :: SilverRey ::, October 20, 2017 at 10:28 a.m.

    <b> #savethecrew</b>
    We need your help. If you believe in the fans of MLS, and what MLS means to the fans, help us show this greedy 'Mergers & Acquistions Specialist' Anthony Precourt that he has no place in MLS.
    <b>Ways to help</b>
    Show your solidarity this Sunday by wearing yellow to the game
    Bring signs denouncing Precourt (and Garber who is entirely complicit)
    At minute 10 (Crew was the first of the original 10 teams in MLS) begin a Columbus Crew chant - i.g. clap,clap,clap COLUMBUS
    Anything else that you can do that would show the league that this is not the way to do things in MLS!

  10. Cool Dudes, October 20, 2017 at 2:23 p.m.

    How many times do you see leagues with promotion and relegation "threaten to move the team"?

    There are so many mid size cities in the US and so few mega-cities.  MLS switching to a multi tiered league with pro and relegation is a no brainier if they want to expand, have a chance at having their top flight world class, grow the sport, and have loyalty to their fan base?

    People in Columbus don't go to see LA and NY play, they go to see Columbus play.  They certainly aren't going to see any world class players on any of those teams anyway.

  11. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 20, 2017 at 3:34 p.m.

    Point taken (although MLS is not quite ready for pro/rel yet) but Wimbledon did move to Milton Keynes.

  12. Molly Wilsbacher, October 21, 2017 at 12:03 a.m.

    I've been a season ticket holder for 14 years in Columbus. The biggest unanswered question is why did Precourt make this announcement now before the last game of the season and before the playoffs? Couldn't it have waited until the playoffs were over? 

  13. Dave Hossler replied, October 21, 2017 at 3:14 p.m.

    Simple @Molly Wilsbacher . . . . to tank the team in the playoffs, so no one has to have the uncomfortable conversations this winter about why a potential Eastern Conference Champ (or dare I say it) MLS Cup Winner is splitting town the year after they won it all.

    While Toronto is obviously favored to win the East, Columbus is on fire right now, 6-0-3 in their last 9 games, and seems to have found its form at nearly he best possible time. Winning in the playoffs makes things MORE complicated for Precourt, Garber, etc., not less so. Same thing with making an effort to keep Federico Higuain in black'n'yellow. It's understood that he's gone this winter, so when the team is inevitably the less for it, that and the combination of knowing the departure is eminent will keep fans away. Then Precourt can go back to the world and say, "See? No support. We have to move." It's a longish con.

  14. Chuck Redding, October 22, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

    I keep hearing the word American Arrogance...aka Taylor Twellman...and It is. How about American Ignorance...Don. Are you L.A. Charger fan as well?

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