The state of Ohio and the city of Columbus filed a joint lawsuit against MLS and Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt Monday, in an attempt to keep Precourt from moving the team to Austin. Last October, Precourt said he would move the Crew to Austin for the 2019 season and beyond unless Columbus builds him a new stadium, and MLS czar Don Garber has helped him in his efforts, despite the fact that relocation runs counter to everything MLS has said it stands for.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Precourt last December that the potential move runs afoul of the “Art Modell Law”—a state law which prohibits a sports owner from moving a team that receives financial assistance from the public without six months’ notice and an effort to sell to a local owner first—and this week’s lawsuit claims Precourt is violating that law. The lawsuit characterizes Ohio Revised Code 9.67 as a “common-sense response to owners who accept taxpayer benefits from one location and then shop their team to the highest bidders elsewhere.”
DeWine notes that Crew owners have been the beneficiaries of a property tax exemption on their stadium as well as $5 million in state funds to improve the stadium’s parking infrastructure. They’ve also received public money from Columbus for various infrastructure improvements. The city and state’s case rests in part on Precourt’s efforts to find a local buyer, and they say Precourt and MLS have made “no effort” to make that happen. Meanwhile, Precourt has scoped out stadium sites in Austin.
The full lawsuit can be found below.