It looks like the Columbus Crew won't be moving from Ohio to Austin after all. An investor group headed by Jimmy Haslam, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, is in negotiations to buy the Major League Soccer team and keep it in Columbus.
Haslam and the Browns tweeted a statement Friday afternoon.
A statement from Dee and Jimmy Haslam on the Columbus Crew: pic.twitter.com/tSovbEKZ8G
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 12, 2018
Members of the “Save the Crew” grassroots movement announced the developments today.
“We just received word from MLS that they’re committed to keeping the team in Columbus,” said David Miller with Save The Crew. “I think our efforts made all the difference. I think it was close to a done deal when [a potential move to Austin] was first announced.”
The team's current investor-operator, Anthony Precourt, has been trying for a year to bring the team to Austin; City Council approved a deal over the summer for a 20,000-seat stadium near the Domain.
This does not mean the story is over for Austin, though. Precourt retains the rights to run a team here starting in 2020 or 2021.
"While timing for Austin FC is still to be finalized, we are confident that the team will begin play no later than 2021 at the new, privately financed stadium and soccer park at McKalla Place," Major League Soccer said in a statement Friday. "We applaud the Austin community, city leaders and Precourt Sports Ventures for their commitment to making this happen.”
Precourt Sports Venture released a statement saying regardless of whether the Crew is bought, "Austin FC will be playing MLS matches in the Texas state capital in the near future."
The founder of the supporters group Austin Anthem, formerly known as MLS in Austin, said the developments were good for Austin.
“One, it creates some certainty of [a team] coming before 2021," Josh Babetski said. "It creates some resolution for Columbus, hopefully, if this deal goes through. It’s always been our position that we hope that there is a club there. We didn’t ask for a relocated team. Now it sounds like we’re not going to get one. We’re going to get a brand-new team of our own.”
In August, the Austin City Council approved a resolution to negotiate stadium construction and a long-term lease with Precourt and PSV on city-owned land in North Austin.
Precourt Sports Venture began its flirtation with Austin nearly a year ago, prompting an outpouring of support for the team in Columbus. The grassroots movement #SaveTheCrew became a rallying cry and a social media phenomenon.
— Save The Crew (@Save_The_Crew) October 12, 2018
It also marked the first opportunity to test Ohio’s “Modell Law,” named after former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who moved his football team to Baltimore in 1996.