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MLS, Precourt: ‘Strongly disagree’ with Ohio’s lawsuit to keep Crew SC

Oct 31, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC Investor operator Anthony Precourt watches from his booth in the first half against the New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Soccer and the owner of Columbus Crew SC responded to a lawsuit aimed at blocking the club’s move to Austin, Texas, saying they strongly disagree with the interpretation of an Ohio law intended to keep professional sports teams from relocating.

MLS and Precourt Sports Ventures released a statement Tuesday, after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit to keep the team in Ohio under the Modell Law. Following relocation of the Cleveland Browns in 1996, the law was enacted to prevent owners that receive public financing from uprooting their teams.

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 reads. “The complaint, regrettably, chooses to ignore both the facts and the law.”

MLS and PSV say that since PSV acquired the club in 2013 it has made significant investments both on and off the field. Ohio and Columbus allege that Crew SC and its affiliates have accepted the benefits of about $5 million in state taxpayer-funded improvements to their parking facilities, among other public assistance.

Here is the full MLS/PSV statement, provided by a PSV spokesman:

“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 complaint, regrettably, chooses to ignore both the facts and the law.  Since acquiring the right to operate the Club in 2013, PSV has made significant investments both on and off the field to try and make Crew SC a viable enterprise in Columbus.  Despite these efforts and the on-field success of the Club, Crew SC has been at or near the bottom in the League with respect to box office results and corporate support. Marketplace challenges have existed in Columbus for 22 years since the club’s founding in 1996. As a result, PSV last October announced that it would explore the possibility of relocation while also continuing to see if Columbus can be a successful MLS market, and in particular, whether there is a path to a new stadium.

MLS and PSV remain willing to engage with both public officials and potential private investors in Columbus to determine if there is a legitimate plan to make Crew SC viable in Columbus, including a plan for a new stadium.

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.”

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