The time is now for MLS in Austin

Austin is the largest city in the United States without a major league sports franchise. But, there’s a slight possibility that might change. Precourt Sports Ventures, primary investors and operators of Columbus Crew Soccer Club– an Ohio based team– have been trying to move their club to Austin for the better part of a year. If this move shapes up, Austin will finally be added to the MLS.  

While things have been moving smoothly in Austin for Precourt Sports Venture in terms of finding a stadium, Ohio law is providing setbacks. Before the intended move, the Columbus Crew Soccer Club was using tax-supported facilities from the state of Ohio. Since they had financial ties to the state, the Columbus Crew SC is required to maintain their activities in Ohio or give the state at least a six months notice to purchase the team before transferring to a different city. Precourt Sports Venture entered a lawsuit with Ohio state.

According to Columbus Business First, in an article titled “Experts weigh in on ‘Art Modell law’ and whether it can help #SaveTheCrew”, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s said “strategy might be to make life a little bit difficult by delaying things so that (Precourt) just gives up trying to move, rather than it actually being able to survive constitutional scrutiny.”

The law resurging in this lawsuit is called the ‘Art Modell law’. The National Law Review reviews the law stating“ a professional sports team…cannot move to a new location without either: (1) entering into an agreement with the political subdivision in which the tax-supported stadium is located that permits the franchise to move… (2) giv(e) not less than six months’ advance notice of the intention to vacate the stadium…”

Ultimately, the Art Modell law is a state law that says Ohio teams using tax-supported facilities must either come to an agreement with the town they are active in or give the town at least a six months notice to buy the team before moving to a different city. While a local judge could turn the tide in Columbus’s favor, it is unlikely due to a trick up Major League Soccer’s sleeve. The MLS acts as a single entity owner giving operating agreements to investors in MLS itself. This means the true owner of Columbus Crew is MLS who are subject to interstate commerce laws over Ohio state law.

The lawsuit has been – an obstacle for Precourt Sports and MLS, but with the high likelihood of MLS winning the suit, it seems to do nothing more than stall their move. This roadblock continues to slow the progress of a team moving to Austin, though progress is being made nonetheless.

Austin City council voted 7-4 in favor of a terms sheet regarding the potential team’s stadium. This was the final hurdle to jump in Austin, having already gained the support of many citizens. After potential stadium sites were protested and turned down, the city seems to be embracing its likely new franchise. Unlike the other proposed sites, the agreed upon Mckalla Place stadium has not seen much backlash.

Their attendance numbers are the worst in the league, but the fans who are continuously showing their support and spend their hard earned money to go to the games truly do love their club. Much like MLS to Austin websites, Columbus Crew supporters have started a “Save the Crew” website and Twitter hashtag in an attempt to keep their team at home.

With all the controversy and uncertainty surrounding the move from Columbus to Austin, it now seems as though an MLS team in the Texas state capital is imminent.