Alex Fischer

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Columbus officials release statement after MLS, Precourt meeting

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Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther and Alex Fischer, the CEO of the Columbus Partnership, met with MLS commissioner Don Garber and Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt on Wednesday in a bid to keep the Crew in Ohio.

It did not go well.

[ MORE: Rochester Rhinos in jeopardy ]

Ginther and Fischer released a statement on the meeting, claiming that they offered every option to get Precourt and Garber to take relocation to Austin, Texas, off the table only to be shot down by the MLS hierarchy.

“We met with Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt in New York today. It is clear the MLS and ownership did not come to the meeting willing to commit to staying in Columbus. We know this is heartbreaking for the dedicated fans in Columbus and across the country who have shown unwavering support for the Columbus Crew SC.

We are disappointed and frustrated. We were united in putting all options on the table, with the expectation in return that the MLS and ownership would cease pursuing moving the team to Austin. Great American cities do not get into bidding wars over sports teams to benefit private owners. Garber and Precourt were not willing to do that today.

Once the league and owner are committed to Columbus, we stand ready, willing and able to support the team’s success. On November 21, standing alongside the best soccer fans in the country at MAPFRE stadium, we will be cheering Black and Gold onto victory. Glory to Columbus.”

Relocation stories are never fun, but this one is infuriating. From the timing of the announcement — before a big playoff run — to the words of Precourt, it’s been one big stinger after another.

Sadly, stories like these are unavoidable when a league size is limited and closed. Precourt bought the original MLS team with the hopes of moving it to Austin. The sale was approved with that language in it. Essentially, the Crew barely had hope of overcoming those desires.

Precourt claims that Columbus didn’t present a viable plan to keep the team in Ohio, from MLSSoccer.com:

Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer met this afternoon in New York City with Mayor Ginther and Alex Fischer, at the request of the city, in anticipation of being presented an actionable plan and a legitimate offer that would advance efforts to improve Crew SC’s long-term ability to operate and compete in Columbus.  Both PSV and the league entered the meeting with open minds, no demands and a complete willingness to listen and entertain concrete ideas or a meaningful proposal from the city’s representatives at the meeting.

We were extremely disappointed that no concrete offer or proposal was presented and then told by the City of Columbus that it would not communicate with us past today.

Precourt Sports Ventures made a clear commitment to Columbus four years ago by purchasing 100 percent of Columbus Crew SC.  In the meantime, despite successful efforts to reinvent the brand and improve the Club, market challenges for Crew SC in Columbus continue to mount.

Despite the city’s refusal to make a real offer and its decision to cease conversations, we remain open to a productive dialogue if the City of Columbus reconsiders.  Columbus Crew SC remains focused on our quest to win MLS Cup.

In terms of business, Precourt has every right to move the team, and MLS has every right to let him. And it seems — strictly inference here — MLS views the outcome of giving Cincinnati a team after Columbus leaves as somehow a fine trade-off for Ohio.

If MLS started today, Columbus probably wouldn’t get one of 28 markets. That’s not the point. They have a team, an original team, and those are generally hallowed in major and important American sports leagues.

But as someone who grew up in Buffalo with constant threats and hostage moves regarding the Sabres and Bills to pony up or risk losing the team, I hope Columbus finds the solution our city did: Owners who were willing to make less than the maximum to cater to a community in love with its teams.

Imagine a United States without the home of Dos a Cero boasting a top tier side. Again, this remains a league barely over 20 years old, and Garber and Co. are very much navigating the equivalent of the Wild West (along with teams in other leagues). Still, concern for what’s been built in Ohio would be nice, at the very least.