Andy Loughnane has been named Austin FC’s president, the organization announced Thursday. Loughnane, 44, was most recently president of business operations for Columbus Crew SC.
“Austin FC will be the 27th team to enter Major League Soccer, and will begin play in 2021,” Loughnane, who officially started on New Year’s Day, said during an interview Thursday, confirming what the league broadly hinted at in recent weeks.
Precourt Sports Ventures gained investor-operator rights to Crew SC in 2013. Over the last month, PSV completed a transition to turn over the pioneering MLS franchise to a new investor-operator group while it focused on building a brand-new MLS franchise in the capital of Texas.
According to the club’s statement, Loughnane’s responsibilities include oversight of community and supporter engagement, ticketing, sponsorships, marketing and communications, digital and social platforms, content creation, media distribution, merchandise, food and beverage, and stadium operations.
“Andy’s long track record of success in the sports and entertainment industry, and his instrumental leadership of Columbus Crew SC make him the ideal leader to serve as president of Austin FC,” Austin FC’s Chairman/CEO Anthony Precourt said in a statement. “He is a proven operator who will be crucial to achieving our goal of developing a proud, winning club in Austin. I look forward to continuing to work closely again with Andy as we embark on this great opportunity to build a Major League Soccer team in Austin.”
Loughnane said Thursday that the opportunity to build a franchise from scratch “is truly an opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Austin is a very special place,” Loughnane said. “Austin has an incredible track record of cultivating the exceptional and the extraordinary, and it’s a place where creators and comfortable creating, where businesses and individuals are relocating in record numbers. It’s a place where people thrive.
“We want to be here, we’re excited to be here, and the market itself is poised in a unique way for a lot of reasons. There’s a lot of pent-up demand in Austin, and it’s a very soccer-savvy city. That combination is a very good formula for success, and we are absolutely honored and thrilled to be part of the community.”
He also noted that one of the next items of business for Austin FC is “a celebratory event where certain proclamations are made” establishing the club as an official MLS franchise.
The team will be the first top-tier sports franchise in Austin. The Austin metro area is currently home to the Round Rock Express, a AAA baseball team (based in neighboring Round Rock, affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros); the Austin Spurs, a G-League team (based in neighboring Cedar Park, affiliated with the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs); and the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars (also in Cedar Park, affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars).
A USL Championship expansion soccer franchise, Austin Bold FC, is scheduled to launch in 2019, playing its home matches at the Circuit of the Americas complex in nearby Elroy.
Loughnane said he’ll be getting a counterpart sometime in the next year to handle soccer operations, noting that, “We strongly believe in a collaborative model, in which the business and soccer operations sides are closely integrated,” and citing his close working relationship with former Crew SC coach and current U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter as a model for what he’s like to see for Austin FC.
During Loughnane’s leadership of the Crew’s business operations, the franchise consistently reached the MLS Cup Playoffs, with the team and stadium established single-season franchise revenue records in sponsorship, ticketing, and food and beverage for three consecutive years from 2015 through 2017, Austin FC’s statement about his hiring said. He also oversaw the execution of several major milestones and business initiatives, including the club’s 2014 brand transformation, securing the first naming rights partnership in the 15-year history of what is now known as MAPFRE Stadium in 2015, and securing the largest annual sponsorship commitment in Crew SC history when Acura signed on as official Crew SC jersey partner in 2017.
Prior to working with Columbus Crew SC, Loughnane oversaw all sponsorship and media sales initiatives as VP of corporate partnerships for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. Loughnane previously helped launch a major league franchise as a member of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets’ inaugural front office staff. Prior to his role with the Blue Jackets, he worked for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings during the franchise’s back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 1996-97 and 1997-98 as a sponsorship sales executive.