Columbus Crew SC fans made it clear they wouldn't let their beloved team go without a fight, but the MLS won't budge easily.
Major League Soccer and Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt released a joint statement Tuesday that said they "strongly disagreed" with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the City of Columbus' choice to enact Ohio Revised Code 9.67 — also known as the "Art Modell Law" — to keep the team from relocating to Austin, Tex.
“Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer are disappointed that the Ohio Attorney General and the City of Columbus have chosen to commence litigation rather than encouraging public officials in Columbus to engage in constructive discussions about the future of Columbus Crew SC," the statement read.
This statement comes in response to DeWine following through Monday on his promise to take legal action against the Precourt's ownership group — Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) — after plans for the Crew's relocation were announced. DeWine, along with some state lawmakers, have publicly stated that they do not want to see the team move.
MLS and PSV continued to say the city and attorney general's complaint ignores "both the facts and the law," and that they would be willing to discuss "a legitimate plan" to keep the team in Columbus with public officials and private investors.
“Throughout this process, PSV and MLS have complied, and will continue to comply, with all relevant laws, but we strongly disagree with the AG’s and City’s interpretation of the Modell Law, its applicability to Columbus Crew SC, and the remedies they seek,” the statement read.
The "Modell Law" was passed in 1996 after the law's namesake, Art Modell, moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore to become the Ravens. Under the law, owners of sports teams that receive public funding cannot move the team without government consent, or six months notice and an opportunity for local citizens to purchase the team. It had not been tested in court at any moment throughout its two decades of existence, until now.
“Loyal Crew fans in Columbus have invested their time and loyalty in this team, and they have allowed the Crew SC to capitalize from financial incentives paid for by their tax dollars,” DeWine said in a statement. “I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed.”
DeWine and the city of Columbus' complaint alleges that the Crew accepted the benefits of approximately $5 million in state taxpayer-funded improvements to their parking facilities, accepted a property tax exemption for the land on which Mapfre Stadium sits, leased that same land at a below-market rate, received over $300,00 in reimbursements in storm sewer relocation and water line construction costs and cost the city at least $1.3 million in Silver Drive extensions to increase stadium access.
PSV and the MLS have defaulted to arguments about the "marketplace challenges" of having a team in Columbus, and Precourt has repeatedly said he will not sell his team because he's "not a seller."
It will be up to Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County to see if their case holds water.