COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As the Queen City crosses its fingers in hopes that major league status is bestowed upon FC Cincinnati, Columbus is gearing up for a soccer battle of its own.
Attorney General Mike DeWine may invoke the 21-year-old Modell Law to force Columbus Crew SC to stay in the Buckeye State, he told NPR affiliate WOSU.
The law stems from a case in 1996, when Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell shipped his team to Baltimore, Maryland. It stipulates teams that play in publicly supported stadiums must obtain approval from local government leaders to move or offer somebody from the community the opportunity to purchase the team outright, WOSU reports.
“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the law passed after the Browns’ move. We believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and MAPFRE Stadium,” DeWine wrote in a statement to WOSU. "I am prepared to take the necessary legal action under this law to protect the interests of the State of Ohio and the central Ohio communities which have all invested to make the Columbus Crew a proud part of our Ohio sports tradition."
State Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Columbus, originally proposed using the law to prevent the Crew from leaving Ohio.
The team was established as a Major League Soccer team in 1994 and built the nation's first soccer-specific stadium in 1999. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in October that Crew's MAPFRE Stadium "is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS."
He supports Crew owner Anthony Precourt, who said in October he "has no choice but to expand and explore all of our options ... this includes a possible move to Austin."