City attorney files lawsuit to keep Crew S.C. in Columbus

The Columbus Crew SC took an early lead, but tied Chicago 1-1 in the season opener at Mapfre Stadium. (WSYX/WTTE)

The City of Columbus went back to court Monday to keep the Crew S.C. in Columbus Monday. City Attorney Zach Klein filed a motion in court to pause the six-month window Precourt Sports Ventures, the owner of the team, would have to sell the team as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code Section 9.67.

The City cited the so-called "Art Modell Law" which was passed after the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. The law states any team which is supported by tax dollars cannot leave the state unless the host city gives permission or the owner gives six months' notice for a local investor to buy the team.

"It wouldn't make any sense if that clock expired during litigation and the suit was over," Klein said. "That would totally eliminate the purpose of the law to begin with."

Klein says the move seeks to protect the investment of Ohioans by enforcing state law, which requires a reasonable opportunity for local investors to purchase the Columbus Crew SC Soccer team.

“This tactic enables us to pause the six-month time period as outlined in the law in order to protect investments by the people of Ohio,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. “This will allow the City of Columbus to ensure that local investors in fact have the opportunity to purchase the team. We remain committed to doing everything we can to keep The Crew here in Columbus.”

The full motion can be viewed here:

The motion was filed after owner Anthony Precourt has expressed interest in moving the team to Austin, Texas.

“This gives an opportunity to those investors to look at the books if they’re presented to us and those investors can make a business decision whether they want to buy the team," Klein said.

Crew supporters have been pressuring the team owner to consider selling instead of moving Major League Soccer's first franchise.

"It just goes to show you how serious we are in the city about keeping this team where it belongs," said Morgan Hughes, one of the fans leading the Save the Crew movement. "We are a massive fan base. We are a smart city. We are a forward-thinking group of people and we decided on October 17th that we were going to get something done. We're still committed to doing it and we're going to get it done."

Klein said team owner Anthony Precourt has "talked out of both sides of his mouth to say the least" when it comes to his desire to entertain the idea of staying in Columbus. Precourt has said he would consider staying if he was able to move the team into a stadium downtown.

“There certainly has been a lot of lip service given while he’s in Columbus or talking about Columbus but then a very different version of life and reality when he’s talking with Major League Soccer or the City of Austin," Klein said.

ABC6/FOX28 reached out several times to Precourt Sports Ventures multiple times for comment. So far none of those messages have been returned.

ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to follow the #SaveTheCrew movement.