News of Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s threat to move the MLS team to Austin burned like a wildfire through an American soccer landscape still reeling from the failure of the U.S. Men’s National team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Normally I’d use this space to add my perspective on these events, but I thought I’d reach out to the Columbus Crew support and amplify voices of supporters like us who are now fully engaged in an effort to keep their team where it is.
The Crew have been intense rivals during our still early days in MLS. It was Crew fans who taught me how to use the block button on Twitter, but I’ve also made quite a few “frenemies” with the Crew support as well. What Precourt has done could set a very destabilizing presence in MLS. As a fellow supporter I’m reminded we are more similar than different, and if it was our team I’d hope people rallied to our cause as well. So, for this week, “Our City” becomes “Their City,” as I let some of the many people helping to organize the #SaveTheCrew campaign, Morgan Hughes and Dave Foust, have the floor:
How did you hear about Anthony Precourt’s intention to move the Columbus Crew to Austin, TX? Was there any indication throughout this season that the owner was considering moving the club?
Morgan: I heard about it about 45 minutes before the Grant Wahl story broke in Sports Illustrated. If there were any signs that this was going to happen when it happened, I wasn’t paying attention to them. There has been a very obvious reduced involvement over the last couple years from him, at least publicly on social media and his attending of Crew games, but I never thought we’d see this kind of announcement.
Dave: My wife woke me up at about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday to tell me. I honestly never imagined this was coming. When he originally bought the team, there was a little anxiety, but his reassurances early on and comments throughout his entire tenure as owner made it seem like he was one hundred percent committed to Columbus and the soccer culture and heritage we have here.
What does the Columbus Crew mean to you and to the city of Columbus?
Dave: I was fortunate enough to attend games with my family since 1996. My parents and extended family in Dayton shared season tickets. I was even lucky enough to participate in the parade of champions around the field. I’ve always loved the sport and this team and I’ve always felt fortunate that Columbus had a top-level team. Now that I’m older, I’ve gotten involved with the supporters’ culture, joining supporter groups, and even helping to run one. We’ve become like family. Nearly all of my fondest memories are moments I shared with this family and this team. I know I’m not alone in saying that the Crew is inseparable from Columbus. Crew is a part of who we are.
Morgan: During this process, I’m trying to make sure that I answer questions like this from a personal perspective, and not on behalf of the entire city of Columbus. To me, the Crew means everything. In real life, I basically have three modes; Crew, work, and sleep — usually in that order. I’m closer to my Crew family than I am to my biological family, which isn’t to say that I’m not close with my biological family. I’m extremely close with them, but that tells you how much my Crew family means to me. I met my fiancée at a Crew game in 2013. Without the Columbus Crew, my life would be significantly different, in a very bad way.
What are the supporters and fans doing to try and keep the Crew in Columbus?
Morgan: Everything and anything we can. The first big public event will be at Columbus City Hall at noon on Sunday, and beyond that we have a ton of stuff planned. It is massive.
Dave: First, we’re humbled by the support we’ve received from other supporters groups around the league. Many are making arrangements for their own show of solidarity online and in the stands. The Crew community is working on several initiatives beyond contacting local city and business leaders to express support. First, www.savethecrew.com is aggregating resources for folks looking to get involved. We’re asking that people send the message that this potential move is unacceptable by contacting their club ownership and the MLS commissioner’s office. We’ll also be hosting a rally at Columbus City Hall on Sunday Oct. 22 from 12 to 3 p.m. We plan to have speakers from supporter groups and other leaders in the community, as well as the opportunity for fans to give “what Crew means to me” video testimonials. There’s much more in the works and it has been incredible to see so many people offering up so much in support of this community.
How would you respond to the person who says that Columbus has had low attendance and thinks Austin is a good fit for the club?
Dave: Columbus’ attendance is nowhere near the threshold where I would think relocation is an option. As an example of true attendance issues, I reference the latter years of Chivas USA, though focusing on attendance also glosses over the myriad of other issues that also played a part in its folding. I don’t believe this hullabaloo is about attendance. I think it simply comes down to the ownership’s own whims. Austin is a great city, but I don’t think moving the team solves much for the ownership.
Morgan: I would ask to see the data upon which they make either one of those claims, and would enjoy tearing apart the numerous fallacies that would likely follow.
Why should this matter to people who follow other teams in MLS?
Morgan: This is the most important part of this entire thing for people outside of Columbus: if they can do this to Columbus, they can do this to anyone. The precedent that would be set with this cowardly act would threaten the very foundation upon which American soccer is built.
What can people outside of Columbus do to help support the #SaveTheCrew movement?
Morgan: Go to SaveTheCrew.com and get involved. We have contact lists that people can use to make their voices heard, templates to use if they’re bad with words, and much, much more. The website, along with the movement itself, is growing by the millisecond. If there is going to be a funeral for the Columbus Crew, every soccer fan in America should pledge that they’ll be too exhausted from fighting this to attend. If this can happen to Columbus, it can happen to anyone. Tell everyone you know.
Dave: Please sign up for updates on www.savethecrew.com and if you have talents you’d like to volunteer (anything and everything — graphic design, legal, accounting, social media, you name it), please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know! We ask that folks continue to post on social media any statements, stories, memes, etc. in support of the movement. If you’ll be attending other sporting events soon, making signs, banners, and tifos would be a great show of support. We are grateful for everyone who has volunteered their time and attention to helping us #savethecrew.