The fight to keep the Columbus Crew in Columbus is unprecedented because of the existence of Ohio’s Modell Law. The law was put on the books after Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in the late ’90s and basically says that any professional sports franchise receiving public funds can’t relocate unless they give the local government six months notice and provide an opportunity for local buyers to purchase the team.

The city of Columbus and the state of Ohio filed a lawsuit against owner Anthony Precourt and Major League Soccer to prevent the Crew’s proposed relocation to Austin, Texas under the Modell Law. Over the last several weeks, the two sides have traded court motions and filings back and forth. Although in the process, it’s become confusing what to actually call Precourt. MLS is arguing that Precourt doesn’t actually own the team, he’s an “operator/investor” under MLS’s single entity structure. That may be technically true, but Precourt sheepishly got caught changing his social media profile from “owner/chairman” to “investor/operator and chairman.” MLS’s own lobbyist trying to move the team to Austin can’t even answer questions from residents there about who actually owns the team.

Precourt’s changing status is just one of many absurdities that continues to make MLS look out-of-touch with reality. The league and Precourt have even tried to argue that the Crew don’t actually exist in Columbus, but in Delaware (!!!) in an attempt to get the lawsuit thrown out on a technicality.

While the #SavetheCrew movement moves deeper and deeper into the legal jungle, Tuesday represented a significant moment in the case. The city of Columbus and state of Ohio were delivered a serious victory in a judge’s ruling.

First, the plaintiffs saw their request granted to have a 90-day toll on the six-month Modell Law window to extend the relevant time period. Second, and most significantly, a judge ruled that purchasers can submit offers for the potential sale of the team and that PSV/MLS have to make financial information about the team available to them. And there is a mention of the two sides potentially working towards a settlement.

Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine (who also won the Republican gubanetorial primary on Tuesday) released this statement lauding the judge’s decision in the case.

This is a huge development because the court is opening the door for either a settlement between MLS and Columbus or for purchase offers to come forward. Either scenario would obviously result in the Columbus Crew staying in Columbus. And while it’s impossible to predict where this case moves going forward if it does indeed become a drawn-out legal matter, it’s at the very least a win for the city and state that the case has not yet been dismissed.

Blogger Miki Turner of SoccerEsq.com has been an invaluable resource to provide insight into all of the legal entanglements that exist in the #SavetheCrew saga. And his analysis is that although it’s still really early in this saga, the ruling represented a victory for Ohio and Columbus.

But an incredible turn of events here. Plaintiffs really won in every way that matters at this stage. But the case is far from over. You can bet that PSV/MLS will be looking for ways to turn this pretty clear defeat around (maybe in a different venue?). But right now, the plaintiffs and #SaveTheCrew can savor this pretty clear victory.

It’s certainly nowhere near being over, but surely MLS and Precourt must realize that their attempt to move the Crew to Austin is going to be much longer and more complicated than they likely ever believed it to be.

If anything, the 90-day waiting period and the push to bring legitimate offers to purchase the team forward are a signal that an exit strategy for Anthony Precourt may be the best course forward for MLS. Of course, given the shambolic tenure of Precourt’s “ownership” and all of the embarrassment and scorn it has brought MLS, that’s probably been true this whole time.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

10 thoughts on “Momentum may be turning in Columbus’ favor to Save the Crew

  1. Solution here is simple: Keep the Crew there and give Austin an expansion team. That likely solves a lot of issues.

    1. The MLS does not want that, as it makes an even bigger mockery out of the expansion process that has given Nashville a team and the 2nd spot still undecided among Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento. If Austin were to just get a team, San Antonio among numberous others that put in bids would be going after MLS for fraud.

        1. I agree; Garber, MLS, Sum, et al are worthy of comeuppance for their wrongs. I am just stating the overlords do not want the Crew stay + Austin expansion solution for the reason of being back in court against even more cities.

          1. Oh agree, but why is there such an urgency to move the Crew to Austin when they are being well supported in Columbus? Is there some sort of a threat that if it doesn’t happen the entire MLS will face legal consequences that will cause MLS itself to go under?

          2. Or is Prescourt being threatened that if he doesn’t move the team to Austin certain people will come after him for whatever reason?

    2. First part of your idea is OK, not the 2nd. Austin is lukewarm about a team, and never submitted a bid. Tell them to get in line behind the other 11 applicants.

      1. I was not aware of that, but then why is MLS so hell-bent on making this happen? Are they being threatened in some way that if this doesn’t happen someone will take MLS down entirely?

  2. Precourt is a complete fool. A Delaware corporation? That’s what every company does – it has nothing to do with where you do business, it is a tax thing. Move your lonely butt to Delaware then.

    Meanwhile, MLS insists that expansion cities have a soccer-specific stadium in an urban setting, when they feel like it. Seattle, Atlanta, New England, NYC, never mind. Nashville, yes, we like your fairground stadium site (sound familiar?). Miami, c’mon in, so what if you have NO stadium plan. What a joke.

    MLS, stop pretending to be like the NFL; you are nowhere close.

    FC Cincinnati has done an amazing job with their bid, and it would be a shame if they don’t get in. What a rivalry that would be. But MLS seems to be inventing rules on the fly there too. I don’t think MLS wants two teams that close. Or maybe it’s just for Ohio, who knows.

  3. I see this going to Federal Court because the MLS is the true owner and the investors have local control but do not assume ownership. The Federal Courts would rule that the MLS has the right to move the assets out of one state into another and would not be subject to local laws prohibiting that move. I could see this going all the way to the Supreme Court it is a mess the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB all have teams i Ohio and would most likely favor a ruling tat allowed them to move teams without state law overshadowing it

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