On Friday, the internet was lit ablaze by rumors that the Columbus Crew were going to be saved and would not be moving to Austin after this season. As the day rolled along, the rumors gained more and more traction, and they were eventually confirmed – Jimmy Haslam and his family, the owners of the Cleveland Browns, were in advanced talks to buy the Crew and save the franchise.
The Browns released a statement from the Haslams on Twitter about the potential sale, noting they were “hopeful to be part of the solution to keep the Crew in Columbus.”
A statement from Dee and Jimmy Haslam on the Columbus Crew: pic.twitter.com/tSovbEKZ8G
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 12, 2018
A further statement from MLS signified “significant progress” in the fight to keep the Columbus Crew from moving.
Major League Soccer and the Columbus Partnership have been working together for several months on a plan to keep Crew SC in Columbus and we have made significant progress.
Recently, the Haslam Family – along with the Columbus-based Edwards Family, have joined the effort to keep Crew SC in Columbus.
MLS, the Columbus Partnership and the investor group all agree that for the club to be successful in Columbus, it requires strong local partners, long-term corporate support, a strong season ticket base and long-term plans for a stadium, practice facilities and associated sites.
MLS is committed to keeping Crew SC in Columbus should we continue to make progress on these critical components and agree to key terms with the investor group.
ESPN is reporting that the situation will apparently unfold in an unusual way, with current (reviled) Crew owner Anthony Precourt retaining his rights to an MLS franchise, relocating those rights to Austin (the market he planned to move the Crew), and the Crew’s new ownership group retaining all current front office personnel, players, and coaches while buying into the league.
A source with knowledge of the situation indicated that the plan is for the investor group to buy an equity stake in the league in which it will acquire the rights to the Crew. Current owner Anthony Precourt, meanwhile, will relocate his rights to Austin. The source added that the goal of the new investor group is to keep the existing Crew players, technical staff and front office staff in Columbus. The source wouldn’t divulge how much the investor group will have to pay to acquire the ownership rights to the Crew, only that talks were at an advanced stage.
MLS isn’t punting on Austin and Precourt – they affirmed their commitment to the market and Precourt as an owner at the same time they praised the Haslams and Columbus.
Major League Soccer is excited to move forward in Austin with Precourt Sports Ventures and their vision for Austin FC. Regardless of any scenario in Columbus, there is a clear path forward for PSV to operate Austin FC as a Major League Soccer club,” the league said in a statement. “The strong support from Austin’s corporate community, government officials and passionate soccer fans is impressive. Austin is a flourishing, dynamic city that presents a great opportunity for MLS, and we look forward to finalizing plans to become the first major league team in the capital of Texas.
While timing for Austin FC is still to be finalized, we are confident that the team will begin play no later than 2021 at the new, privately financed stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place. We applaud the Austin community, city leaders and Precourt Sports Ventures for their commitment to making this happen.
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of all of this, as far as anyone can tell.
- The new Columbus ownership group would essentially be paying the expansion fee for a new team, but they’d be given the Crew instead of an expansion franchise.
- Anthony Precourt would no longer own the Crew, but would still be involved in MLS as the owner of an Austin expansion franchise.
- The Crew would likely continue to play on in 2019 and beyond with their same players, same staffers, and in the same stadium (for now) in Columbus.
Difficult to understand? You betcha. Done deal? Not by a long shot. Crew saved? Not yet. Good news? Undoubtedly.
Even if the family at the center of the saving owns the Browns.