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A win for Columbus? Judge makes first ruling in Crew SC relocation lawsuit

Mar 3, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Crew midfielder Federico Higuain (10) reacts to scoring against Toronto FC during the first half at BMO Field. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The city of Columbus won a small victory Tuesday in its lawsuit aimed at keeping Columbus Crew SC from relocating to Austin, Texas, in what marks the first legal decision since club ownership and the city began tussling late last year.

Judge Jeffrey Brown agreed to pause the lawsuit for 90 days, partially accommodating the city’s request to allow more time to facilitate a purchase of the club. The city, and the state of Ohio, a co-plaintiff in the case, had asked for a six-month delay.

“As we’ve said all along, this time allows potential buyers the opportunity to purchase the Crew SC,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement provided to the Columbus Dispatch. “This is far from over, but we’re very encouraged by the judge’s decision.”

Brown deferred ruling on the motion to dismiss requested by Precourt Sports Ventures, the majority investor and operator of Crew SC.

In the meantime, before the 90-day pause expires, the court will meet separately with the plaintiffs and defendants to determine what might constitute a bona fide buyer of the club. In previous statements, the city has said interested buyers are waiting in the wings but that Precourt and Major League Soccer have declined to share relevant financials that would be required to pursue a deal.

The lawsuit, filed in March, invokes the never-before-tested Ohio Revised Code 9.67—commonly called the Modell Law—which was created after the Cleveland Browns relocated in 1996 to prevent other professional sports teams from leaving the state after receiving public financial support.

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