On Tuesday Oct. 17, Anthony Precourt, owner of Columbus Crew Soccer Club, announced his intentions of moving the club from Columbus, Ohio to Austin, Texas. The reasoning behind this is that if the Columbus Crew can’t finalize a deal for a new downtown stadium in 2019, he will plan to relocate the club. Needless to say, this had many Crew fans very unhappy, letting their voices be heard on social media.
Columbus Crew are one of the ten original teams that was formed with the creation of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996. The club has played at MAPFRE Stadium since 1999 and it was the first soccer specific stadium in MLS. Currently, the Columbus Crew averages a little over 15,000 spectators a game, which is the third lowest attendance in the league. Despite this, the Columbus Crew have made 2 MLS Cup finals appearances: once in 2008, beating New York Red Bulls 3-1; and once again in 2015, losing 2-1 to the Portland Timbers.
In the statement put out by the Columbus Crew, it says: “Despite our investments and efforts, the current course is not sustainable…….Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit,” (Columbus Crew SC). But fans are claiming that moving the club to Austin was in the contract that Precourt signed back in 2013 when he took over as investor-owner. They believe that his intention was to never build a new stadium and he wanted move the club to Austin at some point. In financial terms, this move would be a massive success as it would help Precourt avoid a $150-$200 million MLS expansion fee. (the18.com)
Even though the battle has just begun for Crew fans, the outpour of support for the club has been incredible, as both supporter groups and different MLS clubs have shown solidarity for Columbus. After the hashtag #SaveTheCrew started trending on twitter, supporter groups not only in America but around the world showed their support. Supporters groups such as Die Innenstadt of Cincinnati FC, Timbers Army of Portland Timbers FC and even Atlanta United have shown support for Columbus by changing their logo colors to black and gold and tweeting out messages of support for one of the original franchises in Major League Soccer.
Despite this battle, this is what makes the beautiful game so beautiful: bringing together fans from all over America to support a cause even if it’s for a team they don’t support. Fans of Columbus Crew should not have to worry about relocation, as they have poured their hearts and souls into this club. When soccer starts to be treated more like a business rather than a game, that’s when things get messy. Because at the end of the day, Football/Soccer without fans is nothing. Fans are what make this game so special, and threatening to relocate the club is a disgrace to the people of Columbus.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org