State rep wants to use 1996 law to keep Crew in Columbus

FILE -In this Oct. 31, 2017, file photo, Columbus Crew fans show their support for the team before the start of their MLS Eastern Conference semifinal soccer match against New York City FC in Columbus, Ohio.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio – A state lawmaker is trying to keep Columbus Crew SC in Columbus and a law from 1996 may be the key.

Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, said he is asking Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to consider the law and block Crew SC’s potential move through legal action.

News broke earlier this year that the owner of the Columbus Crew, Anthony Precourt, is looking to move the team - possibly to Austin, Texas.

Rep. Duffey said the law came to be after Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. Modell owned the Browns at the time.

He said it states owners of professional sports teams in Ohio cannot move the team under the following conditions: If they use facilities supported by taxpayers or public money and do not provide six months of advance notice and they do not allow the city or the people who live near the facility an opportunity to buy the team.

Crew SC plays at MAPFRE Stadium which is on tax-exempt state land and uses leased state land for parking, according to Rep. Duffey.

Precourt Sports Ventures provided the following statement to 10TV: “Precourt Sports Ventures has seen the public remarks made by State Rep. Mike Duffey and PSV will not have further comment at this time.”

The Ohio Attorney General's Office told 10TV on Wednesday it was reviewing the matter.

On Thursday, Attorney General Mike DeWine released the following statement:

“Ohioans are very loyal fans who passionately support our teams and take great civic pride in their accomplishments. Our teams are a part of our communities. That is why when ownership moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1995, the Ohio General Assembly took action and passed a law to protect Ohio and its communities when they provide tax-funded support for professional teams’ stadiums. As a United States Senator, I, along with Senator John Glenn and Congressman Louis Stokes, introduced similar legislation in Congress.

“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the law passed after the Browns’ move. We believe the evidence will show that this law would apply to the Columbus Crew and Mapfre Stadium. As Attorney General, should ownership of the Columbus Crew initiate a move of the team without complying with Ohio law, I am prepared to take the necessary legal action under this law to protect the interests of the State of Ohio and the central Ohio communities which have all invested to make the Columbus Crew a proud part of our Ohio sports tradition and help Mapfre Stadium earn its reputation as ‘Fortress Columbus.’”