Don Garber's comments overstated Hunt Sports Group's current goals.
Earlier this week, Hunt Sports Group and the Crew released a statement regarding Don Garber's comments on the sale of the team. The commissioner's comments appeared to signal the beginning of the end of Hunt Sports Group's involvement with the Crew. The statement tries to downplay the comments that Garber made and reiterates HSG's commitment to the team and the city.
The statement is clear that the Hunt's aren't looking to sell. Several people with the team I've spoken to regarding the situation attributes this up to ill advised words chosen by the commissioner, words that were already clarified by a league spokesman, and that HSG hasn't changed how they are managing the team and their desire to bring in local ownership that "align with the Hunts' long-term vision for Major League Soccer in Columbus".
That long term vision includes Goal 10K, securing stadium naming rights, and expanding ties to the business and community leaders. The team has pushed forward to get the team on much better financial footing. Season ticket and corporate partnership business are up significantly and are tracking with team goals. The team isn't expected to meet the 10,000 season ticket holder goal during the 2013 season, but is within reach in 2014.
Despite the recent clarifications from the league and the team, It still wouldn't surprise me that Hunt Sports Group would readily sell the Crew to a local investor with a strong desire to continue to build the team within Central Ohio. Until that buyer arrives, HSG will continue to own the club with the long term goal of keeping the team in Columbus. It's clear that HSG wants the team in town and they will make any ownership decision with that formost in mind.
Full statement from the Crew and HSG follows:
With respect to recent media reports and commentary relating to the future of the Columbus Crew, the Hunt family is firmly committed to the Crew organization in Columbus. In June 2010, Hunt Sports Group announced it would pursue additional investors in the Crew to strengthen the current local investor group that has been part of the club since its inception. HSG also stated that any new investors must align with the Hunts' long-term vision for Major League Soccer in Columbus.
"The City of Columbus, the Crew and Crew Stadium are extremely important to our family, and that hasn't changed," said Clark Hunt, Chairman of Hunt Sports Group. "We continue to believe that additional local investment only serves to strengthen the Crew's standing in Columbus and Major League Soccer, and over the past two years, we have openly explored the possibility of bringing in minority investors to the club. In an attempt to emphasize the importance of identifying additional investors in the Crew, Commissioner Garber's recent comments overstated this objective. He has since clarified his statement through a league spokesperson.
As we have said previously, adding local investors, reaching our goal of 10,000 season ticket holders, securing a naming rights partner for Crew Stadium and boosting support from the business community are all critical factors in the long-term success of the Crew in Columbus. From our family's perspective, our objectives have not changed since we made this original announcement."