OPINION: Moving Crew won’t fix owner’s problems

Jake Adams

Columbus Crew SC has been rumored to leave for the past few years, and sadly it looks as if they could be leaving sooner rather than later. Austin City Council is green-lighting plans to complete a stadium by the 2021 MLS season.

Anthony Precourt, the CEO of Columbus Crew SC, has been very clear about his intentions and has no desire to keep the club in Ohio’s capital.

While he does own the franchise and has the right to move it, he has completely given up on Crew SC fans. Frankly, he’s disrespecting them and milking all the money he can before they move to Austin.

Precourt’s sports company, Precourt Sports Venture, held a rally in Austin to gather hype about the proposed move. The company released a logo and original team name, “Austin FC” for a club not yet confirmed. The logo featured a black backdrop with a green tree and its roots — which is ironic, since he is literally uprooting a franchise from a city and moving it somewhere else.

All of this is happening while still selling season tickets for the 2019 MLS season. All of this is happening while blocking out the voices of the Columbus Crew faithful. All of this is happening while blaming low attendance for the move, but neglecting to market games to attract the public.

Listen, I’m not saying Columbus is this huge soccer town, because Crew SC shares a city with one of the most popular college football teams in the nation.  Ohio is a notorious football state and Ohioans rarely grow up with any soccer background.

However, these problems exist for every MLS team in the United States, and teams find ways around them.

Atlanta United has been smashing attendance records while competing with NFL, NBA and MLB teams in the city.

To think all of Precourt’s problems will magically go away with a team in Austin is flat out wrong. Texas football outranks everything within the state. While the team could draw more Hispanic fans, who make up a third of MLS viewership, that factor alone won’t sell out games.

Ask Houston, FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes, all of whom fell in the bottom half of attendance in 2017.

As a soccer fan, I hope the best for the #SaveTheCrew movement. Fans have even made proposals to build a stadium closer to downtown to draw more attendance. It’s a great idea and can attract more people in the heart of Ohio.

There is hope if Crew SC do leave, because FC Cincinnati will compete in the MLS starting in the 2019 season after playing in the second division of the U.S. soccer professional level for three seasons.

Since their inaugural season in 2016, they have thrived in the USL and have even beat MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup.

Cincinnati may be harder to access for more Northeast Ohio fans, but it’s still great to see that top-tier professional soccer will stay in Ohio.

Who knows; maybe Crew SC stays in Ohio, and we can have a rivalry within the state. A soccer fan, like myself, can only be hopeful.

Jake Adams is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].