Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine made good Monday on his threats to punish the Columbus Crew Soccer Club for letting its eyes wander to Austin, Texas.
Attempting to enjoin the team against abandoning a Midwestern capital for a southern one, DeWine and the city of Columbus filed a lawsuit Monday against Crew owner Anthony Precourt and Major League Soccer.
The suit invokes the Modell Law, a 1996 provision that requires professional teams using public facilities to give six months notice and afford locals an opportunity to buy the team before leaving town. The Modell Law was instituted after Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell exported his team to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens and left Cleveland bereft of a professional football team for the following three years.
"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," DeWine wrote in a news release. "I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed."
MLS Commissioner Don Barber said in October 2017 the MAPFRE Stadium, where the Crew has played since 1999, "is no longer competitive with other venues across the MLS" and contributed to the club's low financial performance within the league.
Precourt said the same month the club had "no choice but to expand and explore all our options" for obtaining an updated, MLS-compliant stadium, including a possible move to Austin.
However, according to the Austin-American Statesman, Precourt's attempted courtship of Austin has encountered much of the same resistance FC Cincinnati's stadium campaign faces at home. It's been tough for the team to find an ideal location, he said in an interview, and locals have been skeptical of the assertion that welcoming the team could lead to $400 million in community benefits for the city over the next quarter-century.
Pinch yourself if this statement from Precourt sounds familiar:
“With the right site, we can build a world-class, privately financed $200 million soccer park and grounds. As we have said from the onset of this exploratory process, a location in the vibrant urban core where people live, work, and play is of paramount importance. This stadium location is a critical driver to the club’s long-term success."