Haslam, Edwards Families Looking To Buy Crew, Keep Team In Ohio
Browns Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and the Edwards family are "part of a prospective ownership group seeking to purchase Crew SC and keep it in Columbus," according to a front-page piece by Andrew Erickson of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. A source said that there is "no set deadline by which MLS and the Columbus buyer group need to complete a sale in order for the team to remain in town" -- and not be moved to Austin -- "nor is there a deadline by which the Crew needs to be playing in a new stadium." The source added that while "nothing has been finalized, the most likely purchase scenario involves the local investors purchasing the Columbus MLS rights from the league and current Crew operator Precourt Sports Ventures transferring its equity interest in the league to an Austin franchise, presumably an expansion team." The source said that a final site for a new stadium in Columbus has "not been selected," but the Crew would "continue to play at Mapfre Stadium" in the meantime. The league said there is a "clear path forward" for PSV's club to begin play in Austin as Austin FC no later than '21. The announcement Friday "broke months of silence regarding a potential new ownership group and followed several meetings between MLS leadership" and prospective owners in Columbus in recent months. Prospective co-Owner Dr. Pete Edwards Jr. "has been the Crew's team physician since the team's founding" in '96 (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/13). ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle cited a source as saying that the goal of the new investor group is to "keep the existing Crew players, technical staff and front-office staff." The source "wouldn't divulge how much the investor group will have to pay to acquire" the team (ESPN.com, 10/12).
NIGHTS IN COLUMBUS: In Austin, Chris Bils in a front-page piece cited a source as saying that a start date for an Austin franchise has "not been decided" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 10/13). The DISPATCH's Erickson wrote the announcement is "significant in that the league ensured it is committed to keeping the Crew in Columbus." The parties would "not have been in a position to make Friday’s announcement without confidence in a deal being completed," but a deal getting done around the first of the year would "allow at least somewhat of a buffer period between a purchase and the start" of the '19 MLS season (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/14). In Columbus, Michael Arace wrote the prospective ownership group is "offering a Columbus solution that is robust and legitimate." Edwards has "Black & Gold running through his veins" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/14).
SAVE THE LAST DANCE: In N.Y., Andrew Das notes any deal that keeps the Crew in Ohio is a "victory for the so-called Save the Crew movement." Born in "outrage and spread with the help of the social media hashtag #SaveTheCrew, the effort had courted allies and investors and even produced renderings of a new downtown stadium" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/13). THE ATHLETIC's Andrew King writes, "For the first time in modern American sports history, a grassroots movement by fans prevented a team from leaving its city." Prior to Friday's announcement, the official #SaveTheCrew Twitter account "had already pulled the trigger on a '#SaveDTheCrew' tweet, which sent fans and media into a frenzy" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/12). The DISPATCH's Erickson pens a front-page piece under the header, "Crew SC’s Future A Cause For Hope, Uncertainty Among Fans" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/14).
MAKING A WINNER: ESPN.com's Carlisle noted PSV's Anthony Precourt "looks set to come out ahead, although he hasn't crossed the finish line yet." If he can "manage to navigate his way through the remaining potholes as it relates to a stadium ... then he will have gotten what he wanted, namely an exit from Columbus and an entrance into a city with no other professional sports teams." Meanwhile, MLS "comes off as both a winner and a loser." This process was "not handled well, at least at the outset," yet the league "deserves some credit for finding a way out of this mess." The "biggest winners of all are the Columbus fans" (ESPN.com, 10/13).