Ohio Attorney General sues to prevent Crew relocation

Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohio’s Attorney General is coming for Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt.

State AG Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against the reviled MLS owner who’s attempting to relocate the Crew to Austin, Texas.

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DeWine cites a statute dating back to Art Modell’s move of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore that prohibits relocating a sports franchise from Ohio without the meeting of several conditions including a purchase by state residents.

“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. I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed.”

The lawsuit alleges that Precourt Sports Ventures:

  • accepted the benefits of approximately $5 million in state taxpayer-funded improvements to their parking facilities.
  • accepted state property tax exemption for the land on which the Crew SC’s home field, Mapfre Stadium, sits.
  • leased that land from the state at a below-market rate.
  • accepted more than $300,000 in city taxpayer-funded reimbursements of their costs in moving portions of a storm sewer and constructing a water line.
  • entered into a Tax Increment Financing and Economic Development Agreement with the city of Columbus to extend Silver Drive to increase access to Mapfre Stadium currently costing the city $1.3 million in tax revenue with the potential total cost of more than $2.1 million.

The good guys and girls could win.

Of course every owner is allowed to move a team, but the way Precourt Sports Ventures has conducted itself — from nascent “except for Austin” clauses in its contract to the limiting of entrances at a playoff game to make the stadium look empty at opening kick — has been extremely off-putting.

At some point, you’d love to see Major League Soccer address the situation in an open way, though the league largely works at the discretion of the owners. It wouldn’t hurt to see them prodded in that direction by some other owners.