Should we care about Columbus soccer fans?

In all of the debate over the prospect of Major League Soccer in Austin, there’s been very little talk about the soccer fans in Columbus, Ohio, who Anthony Precourt, the club owner, is trying to abandon.

Opponents of the proposed soccer stadium have cited Precourt’s willingness to ditch Columbus as evidence that he can’t be trusted and might similarly leave Austin fans in the lurch somewhere down the line, but I haven’t heard anybody argue that it’s unethical for Austin to take the team away from Columbus.

That was until today. From the Columbus Dispatch:

Austin council member Leslie Pool, whose district includes the potential stadium site and who has been skeptical of PSV’s stadium proposal, traveled to Columbus and spent her Monday trying to get a better sense in person of who and what might be impacted by Crew SC’s potential move.


“Any time you put a face to an opinion or concern, then you have a better sense of what you’re working for or against,” Pool said. “The pitting city against city piece has been bothering me, the fact that Columbus wasn’t aware that there was a high likelihood that (Crew investor-operator Anthony) Precourt would try to take the team to Austin and the secret rider that was in the (2013 purchase agreement with Hunt Sports Group) strikes me as bad dealing.

“I wanted to think about that and see what the actual impacts are on the families who have built their lives around soccer in this town.”

It’s unusual to see this sentiment expressed. I’ve never seen a governor or mayor reject an offer from an employer to come to town out of guilt for the city or state the company is leaving behind.

However, there does appear to be increasing concern over whether cities and states are engaged in a “race to the bottom” in trying to attract employers. The best example is Amazon, whose search for a second headquarters has already been rebuked by a number of political leaders who say that they don’t want to be complicit in what they describe as a shakedown scheme. Pool and CM Greg Casar have both voiced this opinion.

Of course, it’s hard to tell, both with soccer and Amazon, if the objection is based on a solid political/ethical principle or if that reasoning is simply cover for a straight-up distaste for the proposed project.

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