The news Columbus Crew SC fans waited for almost a year were finally released on Friday, when a statement from Major League Soccer, Columbus Partnership and a potential new ownership group led by Jimmy Haslam strongly indicated the team is more likely to stay in Central Ohio than to relocate to Austin, as (former?) investor/operator Anthony Precourt so badly wished.
However, even though Crew SC fans and all involved with the Save The Crew movement should rightfully take some days to celebrate and rejoice it, it cannot stop here. Keeping the team in Columbus is just the first step, but one that could prove useless in the future if the same mistakes keep happening from all sides involved.
Blame Precourt as much as you want for all this mess, after all it all started from his odd desire of moving to Austin at any cost, but don’t underestimate the most basic principle of business. If he was making money with the Crew in Columbus, relocation would never have been on the table. And that cannot be forgotten just because the situation seems to be under control now.
Taking the Crew away from Precourt’s hands and keeping it in Columbus is certainly a massive victory for all who are passionate about the club, but it definitely doesn’t mean that the scenario is perfect as it is. So, it’s time for everyone to look at the mirror and realize what has gone wrong.
Major League Soccer is sort of a complex league and, as so, several of these changes need to start from their offices in New York City. And don’t be fooled, the league is to blame in all this mess as its addiction to new, flashy franchises has severely hurt several of MLS’s originals, not just Columbus. The Colorado Rapids, the Chicago Fire and the New England Revolution, to name a few, also aren’t in particularly good situations right now.
What MLS needs to learn from this episode is that although Atlanta United and Los Angeles Football Club are great for the league, not every franchise will be like them. And they may not always be like they are now. And that’s fine. Prioritizing these teams in stuff that could be considered by many as simple and non-impactful, such as television scheduling and promotion on social media and other digital channels, does make a difference, especially for teams from smaller markets. Treat all as the same and all of the league’s pieces will get more solid and balanced.
For the new ownership that could take over at any moment, the first task in hand seems to be clear: secure a new stadium. As meaningful as it is for the history of U.S. Soccer, MAPFRE Stadium has been surpassed by other venues and its location isn’t really helpful to attracting and retaining fans.
It the club wants to grow off the field, a new stadium in a downtown location is a must-have. The process, which seems to have already started, needs to be conducted in a very careful way as a bad choice could compromise the entire success of the franchise for the long term.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Crew needs to keep waiting for its new home to keep growing. MAPFRE Stadium has been neglected by Precourt and his crew and that has exposed Black & Gold fans to some unpleasant situations, such as long lines, leaking toilets and even reports of lack of hygiene in the concession stands.
The fans definitely deserve more than that and they also need to be more encouraged to attend games. The lack of marketing campaigns and promotions towards the Crew over the last several years had been mind-boggling and that needs to change.
And, finally, the fans. It might seem unfair to ask for more from those who have done so much for this club and were ultimately pivotal in the successful outcome, but the truth is they can also step up. The Crew has been in the bottom half of the league in attendance for quite some time and even though much of it has been a result of all the factors listed above, showing up at games and supporting those wearing the black and gold colors is the only way to get it right.
If you are happy, support them. If you are frustrated, support them. If you are pissed, support them. Even if you feel they don’t deserve it, support them. Remember the feeling when you thought you lost your team and keep that with you. It’s the only to keep this thing going. And you’ve done so much lately, you can do just a little more to keep your team safe.
The fight to Save The Crew may appear nearly complete, but this could happen again at any time if things aren’t handled correctly. Do your part so the Black & Gold never face this situation again. Similar to the message from STC leadership, this fight isn’t over, it’s really never over. Support your team. Tell everyone you know.