As reported by The Columbus Dispatch’s Andrew Erickson this morning, Major League Soccer provided lobbyist Richard Suttle with a letter that authorized him to lobby on MLS’s behalf in Austin, TX in early August of 2017, two months before the news of Columbus Crew SC’s potential move to Texas was announced.
As we know, Richard Suttle was registered to lobby on MLS' behalf in Austin in August. Here's the letter from Don Garber authorizing him to do so. Letter careful not to mention #CrewSC/relocation by name. (h/t to @knaas, who obtained it via records request) pic.twitter.com/qLpppE0trX— Andrew Erickson (@AEricksonCD) December 5, 2017
Coincidentally (or not), this letter shares a date with Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt’s not-so-subtle tweet hinting at the signing of Designated Player Pedro Santos.
A search of the City of Austin’s lobbyist database shows that MLS has five active lobbyists and one lobbyist who is no longer active.
Of those five, four updated their registrations to include MLS as a principal on August 15 or August 16 of 2017. Julienne Nickells registered as a lobbyist for MLS on November 20, 2017. All six names on this list use the address for Armbrust & Brown, a law and lobbying firm based in Austin.
What is clear from this letter and the registration of multiple lobbyists on behalf of MLS in Austin is that MLS itself is actively pursuing a franchise in the Texas capital despite the lack of any expansion bid.
Though this August 7 letter does not mention Precourt Sports Ventures or Crew SC by name, the Austin Statesman reported that Richard Suttle has been lobbying the Austin City Council regarding soccer since at least July and that Suttle works on behalf of PSV.
News that MLS itself hired a lobbying firm in Austin is not likely to sit well with the 12 ownership groups who recently submitted expansion bids to MLS (that list of 12 has since been narrowed to Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento).
A cursory check of lobbying registries for MLS Expansion applicants Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Miami, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis suggests that MLS does not have a lobbyist registered in any of those cities.
Individual ownership groups in San Diego (MLS SD Pursuit, LLC) and Miami (Miami Beckham United, LLC) have registered to lobby, MLS itself does not have a lobbyist registered in either of these cities.
Massive Report was unable to locate lobbying registries for Charlotte, Raleigh, St. Petersburg (FL), or Tampa.