San Antonio official questions MLS over Crew SC-Austin connection, asks DA to investigate
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (WSYX/WTTE) -- Officials in San Antonio are asking for an explanation from Major League Soccer about the city's expansion franchise bid that could be in jeopardy after Columbus Crew SC's owner announced a possible move to Austin after the 2018 season.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff submitted expressing his surprise to MLS Commisioner Don Garber on Friday after Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt went public about his possible relocation to Texas on October 16.
If Precourt's move to Austin (only 80 miles from San Antonio) is successful, it would likely prevent San Antonio from getting an MLS franchise in the next round of expansion.
In the letter obtained by KSAT, Wolff revealed Precourt and the University of Texas-Austin have reached an agreement on the use of the UT’s facilities in 2019 and MLS has registered trademarks for Austin Athletic and Austin FC this year.
The letter also alluded to the county’s $18 million purchase of Toyota Field for the sole purpose landing and MLS expansion team and being misled by MLS. It read in part:
On November 2, 2015, Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott met with Bexar County Manager David Smith and me. We discussed our proposed plan to purchase Toyota Field and made it clear that we would only purchase Toyota Field if there was a clear path toward a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in San Antonio. Mr. Abbott encouraged us to move forward and submit a bid. We were also told that Major League Soccer would not establish franchises in both Austin and San Antonio.
Wolff also brought up a potential conflict of interest regarding the league and Precourt's position on the MLS expansion selection committee. This came after a reported clause allowing Precourt to move Crew SC to Austin when he purchased the franchise in 2013.
Over the past two years, we have pursued a franchise by purchasing Toyota Field and submitting an application. It has been widely reported that Mr. Precourt, whom you appointed to the Major League Soccer expansion selection committee, obtained a legal right to relocate the Columbus Crew to Austin when he purchased the franchise in 2013. If these reports are accurate, this presents a clear conflict of interest. Had Bexar County officials been aware of such a right, we would not have invested in Toyota Field.
Wolff asked the Bexar County criminal district attorney to investigate the matter and report any findings to the commissioners court.