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Ohio sues Crew SC owner Precourt to keep MLS team in Columbus

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2017 file photo, Columbus Crew fans show their support for the team before the start of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal soccer match against New York City FC, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

The state of Ohio is showing a red card to Precourt Sports Ventures.

PSV, which owns Columbus Crew SC, has hit a snag in its plan to move the club to Austin, Texas, with Ohio’s Attorney General filing a lawsuit on Monday to block the effort. The city of Columbus joined in the lawsuit, which also names Major League Soccer, Team Columbus LLC (owner of the team’s stadium) and Crew Soccer Stadium LLC (the organization leasing the stadium property from the state).

“Today I have filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to try to #SaveTheCrew and keep the black and gold in Columbus,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a press release. “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. I am left with no other choice than to file this suit to ensure our laws are followed.”

Following relocation of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996, state lawmakers enacted legislation to prevent other team owners from making a similar move. Owners using tax-supported facilities and receiving financial assistance from the state or cities must give at least six months notice and give someone else an opportunity to purchase the team.

The lawsuit alleges that the 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.

“As I have said, we believe Columbus Crew SC belongs in Columbus. We have a rich history of professional soccer and some of the most loyal and dedicated fans in the league,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said in the release. “Just as importantly, the team plays in a taxpayer-supported facility, and Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer have accepted financial assistance from the state of Ohio and the City of Columbus. State law provides us with this protection.”

The press release is available here.

The lawsuit is available here.

Mar 3, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Crew midfielder Federico Higuain (10) celebrates his goal against Toronto FC with Columbus Crew defender Milton Valenzuela (19) during the first half at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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