By Jonathan Miller, Contributing Writer
On June 15, 1994, Columbus, Ohio, was introduced as the first of 10 inaugural Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs. On April 13, 1996, the Columbus Crew played their first match in front of 24,000 people in Ohio Stadium. Since then, the Crew has had many successful seasons over the last 21 seasons, including two trips to the MLS Cup Final, one championship in 2008, and a deep playoff run this season.
On Oct. 17, Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, announced that he was looking into relocating the team to Austin, Texas in an effort to increase revenue. In a conference call the day after the announcement, Precourt mentioned, “The club, historically and presently, has challenges with matchday attendance, with growing our season ticket base, with demand for corporate sponsorships and with relevance. The stadium and site are challenges in Columbus.”
The MLS has been adding new teams almost every year that are already looking better off financially than the Crew. Atlanta United joined the league in 2017, and they had 35,000 season ticket holders in their inaugural season, compared to the Crew that had roughly 9,000 in their last season. With the lowest ticket price in the league and light attendance, the Crew is not generating a whole lot of cash flow.
Despite all of the problems that Precourt is facing financially, the Crew has made it through to the semi-final of the MLS Cup playoffs. Because the team has been around so long, there are a lot of passionate fans that are getting behind “saving the Crew.” Fans have adopted the hashtag #SaveTheCrew, and they’ve been holding signs and posters of the hashtag everywhere in the media, ranging from Twitter, Facebook and even in the background on College Gameday this past October. Fans have been expressing their anger at the Crew’s recent playoff games with a host of chants directed at #SaveTheCrew and Precourt. No one with the money to make a difference in the situation for the Crew has stepped up, so despite the outcry, it might take a miracle to keep the team from relocating.
Photo courtesy of Foter