Major League Soccer introduced Friday that it had reached an settlement to switch management of the Columbus Crew to a neighborhood possession group that has pledged to maintain the workforce in Ohio.
The deal will stop the Crew’s threatened transfer to Austin, Tex., and finish an unsightly struggle that had pushed a wedge between the workforce’s followers and the group — on the identical time it highlighted the ability of fan activism in driving the route of a professional sports activities workforce.
Friday’s announcement that Crew’s present proprietor, Precourt Sports Ventures, had agreed to give up management of the workforce to a gaggle that features the proprietor of the N.F.L.’s Cleveland Browns, included the caveat that the ultimate settlement had not been signed. But the brand new house owners have introduced plans to construct a brand new stadium for the workforce, and M.L.S. mentioned the group — led by the Browns proprietor Jimmy Haslam and the longtime Crew workforce doctor Peter Edwards — would take over the workforce’s operations in January.
The settlement is a triumph for followers in Ohio who, blindsided by the October 2017 announcement that the Crew’s house owners were pursuing a move to Texas, had mounted a tenacious public fight to save their team. That effort, fought with banners in the stands, hashtags online and in public protests in Columbus, quickly won the support of current and former players. But the fan-led effort also smartly engaged with city and state politicians and members of the Columbus business community to find a solution, and that work seemed to have paid off in October, when M.L.S. announced that the Haslam-Edwards group was in talks to acquire the Crew.
On Friday, M.L.S. said those talks had produced “an agreement in principle with the Haslam and Edwards families for them to assume an ownership position in Major League Soccer and operate Columbus Crew S.C. starting in January 2019.”
City and state officials had telegraphed that a deal was imminent earlier Friday, when they dropped a lawsuit that had sought to prevent the team from moving.
But while fans, Crew players and Columbus officials cheered the deal to keep the Crew in Ohio, it also was a quiet victory for M.L.S., which extricated itself from an uncomfortable situation — partly of its own making, since it had granted Precourt Sports Ventures the right to pursue a move in the first place — that would have seen one of the league’s original teams abandon its home city.
The yearlong drama surrounding the potential move had been a black eye for the league, and the worst of several prominent rifts between fans and their teams. League officials insisted that their preference was to keep the team in Columbus, even as they noted that the Crew, which entered the league in 1996, its inaugural season, ranked near the bottom of the league in metrics like sponsorship, attendance and ticket sales.
In a statement Friday, Don Garber, the M.L.S. commissioner, acknowledged “the tremendous collaboration and community support” for the Crew, which he said had “set the stage for a powerful plan that includes a world-class soccer stadium — a critical step that will help ensure the club’s success on and off the field.”
Precourt Sports Ventures and its chief executive, Anthony Precourt, who had actively courted politicians and fans in Texas, appear set to remain in the league there. While the Haslam group is a new investor in M.L.S. — under the league’s single-entity structure, owners buy a stake in the league, and are granted the right to operate individual teams — Precourt is expected to retain his equity stake and transfer it to a new expansion team in Austin in the next few years. (The Crew’s history and records will remain in Columbus with the team.)
Earlier this month, Precourt Sports Ventures and the city of Austin announced that they had agreed to terms on a partnership that would result in the construction of a 20,000-seat stadium that would open during the 2021 M.L.S. season and serve as the home of a new team, Austin F.C.