Sunday, October 14, 2018

Columbus Crew Saved?

It appears that the Columbus Crew have been saved by a potential new investment team comprised of Cleveland Browns owner (Dee and) Jimmy Haslam along with longtime Crew physician Pete Edwards.

A rumor emerged somewhere over on the "big soccer" message boards late last week that a deal had been struck and provided further detail into what, how and when. Like these things tend to do, it spread like a wildfire that ultimately led to a local brewery named Endeavor opening it's doors early on Friday, October 12.

Crowds gathered there to await official word that they figured was sure to come.

I was curious enough in what was going on to make the trip to Endeavor myself to see what was up. Sure enough, a moderately sized crowd was there decked out and Crew gear milling about in front of "save the crew" banners. Two local news teams were on the scene (channel 10 and ABC 6) to cover the action, as well.

Once I squeezed in the doors, I started scanning the crowd looking for I don't know what. I figured if it was an NFL owner involved there would be a massive contingent of sharply dressed team officials and media there - but there was not. MLS officials aren't normally as sharp as NFL, but they are fairly easy to spot - and they didn't appear to be there. Or if they were, they were there as fans.

Patrick Murphy - Reporter
The only "official" person I could spot was Josh Williams, who has been with the team for the better part of the last decade.

It was a bizarre scene. Fans and media showing up just because of a rumor. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted some familiar faces like former Massive Report podcast mate Chris LaMacchia and local beat writers Patrick Murphy (Massive Report) and Andrew King (MLS). I headed over to get some info, but none was to be found. Turns out, they were in the dark just as much as anyone else.

The only concrete info I could find was that Josh Williams just decided to show up because he "heard something was up." Anyone familiar with Josh knows that if there was even a hint of his hometown NFL team being involved, he would be there. As a matter of fact, he might not have even heard. That team is so ingrained into its people, it was likely just instinctual for the northeast Ohio native. His feet could have just started carrying him in that direction without his conscience even knowing what was going on.

Rumors of an official announcement from Alex Fischer, local business leader and often voice of potential new leadership popped up, but it got pushed back. Then rumor of the Browns making a statement came and went.

At this point, it was clear that the official parties involved (MLS, new ownership) were not ready to make an announcement. Columbus Crew fans were ready, however. They were goddamn ready,  thus creating the most fascinating thing about what happened that day - the gathering at Endeavor got so much attention that it forced an official reaction. Power to the fans.

Here is a summary: MLS came out strong in support of what was going on down in Austin and confirmed talks with a new group. The potential local ownership group confirmed interest and advanced negotiations... and released a bizarre statement through a Browns twitter feed, that in part said they were "hopeful to be a part of the solution to keep the team," and "We would invest in a strong infrastructure within the Crew organization so that we can continue our focus and commitment to building a winning Cleveland Browns football team."

Jimmy Haslam has long wanted a training facility in Columbus, so it appears his involvement is basically to get that done. Based on the team statement, that is.

None of this suggests it is a done deal, but it looks positive for folks that want to keep the team in town and boy did they celebrate. As they should. It's been a long year for them.


At this point, it looks like MLS is okay with selling the Crew brand to Haslam and Edwards and letting Anthony Precourt work out things in Austin, but neither part appears to be complete. At worst, it is Don Garber and MLS meeting requirements to settle the suit with the state about moving the team.


It's gotten late in the game for MLS to do anything in both Austin and Columbus for 2019. I expect the negotiations between MLS and new ownership to drag on and Austin to not field a team next year. What this means is that there is a possibility that Columbus could be, in part, run by the league next year.

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