Earlier this week, Anthony Precourt, the San Francisco-based owner of the Columbus Crew, announced that he would pick up stakes and move the team to Austin unless the city bought him a shiny new downtown stadium. Columbus does not need a new soccer stadium, because the current stadium is only 18 years old; the stadium extortion racket does not necessarily need a run-down piece of shit stadium to work, so this isn’t really new. What is novel about Precourt making his team into a hostage is that it runs counter to everything MLS has said about the way it works.
The league likes to make a big show about prioritizing growth and stability at, perhaps, the expense of profit. Commissioner Don Garber frames MLS as a smarter alternative to the ruthless corporate machines of the American Big Four. It’s always “growing the game” this or “engaging with fans” that. From the way MLS is centrally planned to the way the salary cap and utterly nonsensical transfer structure serve to depress wages and ensure parity at the expense of good soccer, MLS has positioned itself as a league that is about growth above all else. The message is, essentially: Give us your time and money to an inferior project now because we will build it into something big and legitimate soon.
Precourt’s looming move to Austin is not just a throbbing middle finger to Columbus fans, it’s alien to the way MLS supposedly operates. It shows the flimsy rhetoric of community and growth to simply be marketing bullshit, thin layers of “fan friendliness” papering over what is and always has been a cold-hearted business. In the statement he put out offering vague support for the move, Garber essentially blamed Columbus fans for not supporting the team enough even though Precourt had made “significant investments.” That should tell you exactly where his priorities lie, and it ain’t with the fans.
Is it good for the growth of the game or league to abandon one of the most talent-rich areas in the country? Is it in the best interests of the Great American Soccer Project to jettison the USMNT’s fortress for a chintzy McMansion of a stadium? Does it serve the burgeoning American soccer identity to toss one of the original MLS franchises in the toilet for money? Why is it good for fans to get locked into 2018 season tickets, and for fans who don’t want to support a carpetbagging asshole from California to be ruled ineligible for refunds? Why does Anthony Precourt get to win while fans in Columbus have to either eat shit or lose their team? How does that, any of that, grow the game?
When Precourt bought the team in 2013, the language of the contract specifically forbade relocation unless it was to Austin, and MLS officials have apparently been backchanneling the move for months. Precourt has dinged local leaders for not working with him enough and failing to present alternative stadium solutions or potential new owners, which the city called bullshit on, saying business leaders have lined up to purchase the team. MLS doesn’t give a damn about Crew fans, and neither does Precourt. It sure seems like he’s always wanted to move the team to Texas (where his dad made his family’s fortune in the oil business), and that MLS has always been fine with it. Relocation itself is an affront to the discerning way MLS has done business, carefully expanding and attempting to ape the European model, where clubs are institutions with roots. They only embrace the free market when it benefits them.
Look at this out-of-touch cretin (and his late-career Ryan Howard ratio).
This is who MLS has chosen over their fans, the same ones they’ve lauded and squawked about for years. As they’ve shown before, it’s only ever been about money. The least they could do is stop lying about it.