Times are difficult in Columbus right now. It has been almost a year since the first reports came out that team owner Anthony Precourt intended to move the team to Austin. While the Save The Crew movement is as strong as it ever was, Columbus has been hit with some roadblocks. For people hearing about this for the first time, the Columbus Crew was MLS’s original team. They built the first Soccer dedicated Stadium in MLS and have been there for over 20 years. Team Owner Anthony Precourt doesn’t find that the team is making him enough money, so he wants to relocate the team to Austin. Now you may be wondering “how is this different from a team relocating in say the NFL?” To answer that question and find out why we should #SaveTheCrew, we have to dive in deeper.
The #SaveTheCrew Movement
To anyone who is new to this movement, it’s not just a hashtag. It’s not a few hundred people tweeting angrily at the ownership. It’s a whole community that involves all the fans from every team. I recently spoke with David Miller, who is spokesperson for the Save The Crew movement. This is what he had to say.
“Save The Crew is a representation of the Columbus community standing up to fight for what’s right. MLS has long said that these teams are part of the community and we are fighting for that. We are showing the soccer world what the sport means for us, and we will Save The Crew.”
The idea of a team in the US relocating due to lack of profit isn’t new. Teams have been doing it for decades now. With soccer, however, this is a brand new concept. Even international football has, for the most part, avoided moving franchises. There is a reason for this. Soccer is a completely different culture than other sports because fans are the most important piece of a club’s identity. When an owner tries to put profits before the fans, it doesn’t go over well. MLS fans were quick to come forward with the statement “if they can do this to Columbus, it can happen to any of us”.
Fan Support Has Been Phenomenal
The Columbus Crew fans have made this into a full-on movement. Together they have gathered up public support, gotten the local government involved who have launched lawsuits, and they now have the entire MLS community behind them. The movement has gotten over 10,000 signatures on a pledge to buy season tickets under new ownership, have acquired 300+ business partners and allies, and most impressively have created their own new stadium rendering. Banners can be found at every stadium pledging support to the movement. There have been protests at other teams’ stadiums, such as the Patriots’ own Gillette. The message is clear- MLS fans want the Crew to survive. Because you can’t hate a team if they don’t exist.
On Wednesday, August 22nd, Precourt Sports Ventures unveiled the name and logo of the pending MLS expansion side. In my own personal opinion, I found the logo and name to be rather silly. People were quick to point out similarities between the Austin logo and a Tifo that Crew fans displayed last year. It would seem as if Austin is trying it’s best to troll Crew fans, although that could never be proven. Obviously, anything that can be seen as progress in Austin isn’t good for the Crew, but Columbus officials are still optimistic about keeping the Crew in Columbus. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said it would be more ideal to keep the Crew in Columbus, but has done very little to show that he actually means this. And by very little, I mean nothing.
Like I’ve said, the Crew has been here since day 1. Getting rid of them would not be good for the sport or the identity of MLS. Soccer should not be run with a business mentality, it’s not like other sports. The fans give their all for the club, and it’s up to the owner to give just as much back. If attendance is bad, the owner is not doing something right. It’s up to the owner to fix it, not pack everything up and relocate the team. With that being said, I speak for all of New England and for all of us here at BSE when I say that we stand with you Columbus. You would fight for us, so we fight for you. Together, we’ll #SaveTheCrew