The Crew have been saved after all.
About one year after Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt made his first attempts to move the team to Austin, MLS announced that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam—whose Pilot Flying J company is still embroiled in a nasty federal trial—is a key figure in a group that will soon purchase the Crew from Precourt and keep the team in town. Haslam joined Columbus-based bigwig Pete Edwards Jr., and while the sale has not been finalized, the terms would reportedly see the new group taking over operating rights while Precourt maintains his ownership stake in the league. Ian Thomas first reported the news of Haslam’s involvement.
Precourt will still get his Austin MLS team, as the league also said that they were “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.” Their target start date is 2021, and I really look forward to Crew fans endlessly mocking Precourt when Austin plays Columbus.
Because this is MLS, a centrally controlled league with arcane ownership rules, the particulars of what exactly is being bought and sold need to be explained. Here’s ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle:
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.
Grant Wahl reports that the new ownership group is already actively looking at stadium sites in Columbus. Haslam certainly has enough to cover the cost. Either way, congratulations to MLS on the resolution of its first modern stadium scam saga.