The Austin City Council Debacle: Precourt Sports Ventures’ Latest Blunder

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Precourt Sports Ventures

Editorial (August 11, 2018) — Anthony Precourt could be close to having a Napoleonic moment.

It comes in the aftermath of Thursday’s Austin City Council meeting which was supposed to culminate with a vote on whether or not to green-light Precourt’s stadium proposal at McKalla Place.

Instead, council members delayed the vote until next Wednesday. Why did they do this? Well, to put it bluntly, Precourt and his people continue to make a sales pitch riddled with inconsistencies and obfuscations.

Precourt Sports Ventures’ Latest Blunder in Crew Relocation Fiasco

Thursday’s meeting was just the latest example. And there wasn’t one figure who stole the show more than Richard Suttle, the chief lobbyist for Precourt Sports Ventures in Austin. The bumbling and erratic nature of his presentation to the council became Twitter fodder for Crew fans keeping track of the meeting from Columbus.

During his time speaking to the council, Suttle wasn’t exactly subtle when it came to the vacillating nature of his rhetoric. If he wasn’t getting defensive, he was arrogantly rude to council members. If he wasn’t trying to clarify PSV’s positions on certain issues, he was providing inconsistent information relative to previous statements.

But what really took the cake was his reply to a councilperson’s question regarding a deal PSV made with Lonestar Soccer Association. MLS requires all teams to have an academy to act as a feeder system for top players who aspire to embark on a pro career. It’s for that reason Precourt touted the academy as part of the “community benefits” associated with bringing a team to Austin.

The problem is that if the deal Precourt struck is with a private club, it may entail “pay to play.” MLS academies do not operate in such a manner. Rather, they provide the opportunity for soccer development free of charge. On a side note, the “pay to play” model is a rather contentious issue that many people opine is holding U.S. soccer back. But when pressed on the agreement with Lonestar and whether or not it qualifies as a community benefit, Suttle capitulated.

We blundered when we put the MLS-required academy as a community benefit,” Suttle admitted.

And so began the next chapter on Crew Twitter trying to give a comedic touch to a tragic situation. #WeBlundered suddenly became a hashtag intertwined with #SaveTheCrew. And the subsequent social media roasting of Suttle and Precourt commenced.

Trolling aside, omitting the academy reduces the “community benefits” of Precourt’s stadium initiative by 50 percent. Then there’s the fact Precourt doesn’t want to pay any property taxes on a hypothetical stadium. And at one point, he only wanted to pay $1 yearly rent even though that number is significantly higher despite not being where some city council members want it.

Their misgivings, combined with Suttle’s cantankerous antics, is a major reason the council delayed the vote on the stadium term sheet by six days. Leslie Pool, who represents the area where the McKalla Place site is located, is ironically among the most skeptical members. Others include Alison Alter and Kathie Tovo. Those two objected when Austin mayor Steve Adler, who’s in favor of the stadium deal, motioned to halt additional amendments to the term sheet at the conclusion of Thursday’s meeting.

Suttle wasn’t the only one to disparage the dissenters on the night. Adler himself engaged in some mudslinging, calling proposed amendments to the term sheet “poison pills.” Such sentiment is as tone deaf as it gets. After all, the endgame of this whole process involves robbing an MLS charter member community of its soccer club. If that’s not unequivocally even more poisonous, it’s hard to tell what is.

But what transpired on Thursday demonstrates that PSV is far from impervious in their attempts to relocate the Crew. The grassroots effort in Columbus, which is doing Precourt’s job for him rather admirably in the face of so many obstacles, deserves immeasurable credit. They’ve relentlessly marketed the club to the community when he won’t. They’ve unveiled a viable downtown stadium proposal which is something he can’t even do in Austin. And they’ve exposed him and his proverbial henchmen as entitled, condescending, arrogant, and untruthful.

Not only that. If the following Twitter thread is any indication, Precourt’s “community benefits” narrative is in the midst of a massive freefall this summer.

Assuming the vote doesn’t get delayed further (which wouldn’t be surprising, right?), next Wednesday is a seminal moment in the history of MLS. Though the lawsuit to keep the Crew in Columbus via the “Art Modell Law” remains valid, the situation remains fluid and uncertain. But in the end, it’s a battle of grassroots principle against an astroturf campaign buoyed by a nefarious purveyor of manipulated facts and outright lies.

One can only hope his Waterloo is at hand.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Which part about save the crew’s plan would you consider viable? Bash PSV all you want, but they at least have identified how to actually fund the stadium and a process for acquiring rights to build on the land. Your usage of Waterloo works for everyone, because Austin’s original city name was, indeed, Waterloo.

  2. Another jerkoff session by some Columbus Crew fans. The problem with Columbus is they never gave a shit until their team was leaving the city. If OSU and Columbus Crew plays on the same day they are lucky to fill even half of the stadium. The problem with the Crew isn’t Precourt it’s the fans. If they had cared like this from the beginning, they wouldn’t have been sold to Precourt in the first place, he is a product of their shitty fandom and nobody wanted to pay a premium for a bronze level fan group.

    • That is weird because I skipped on OSU game last year to go a Crew game that was almost sold out. Where are you getting your information, Fox News? Attendance is down this year for obvious reasons, but has been right around the league average since for the past several years. Columbus took a huge risk building that stadium when other cities would not. Many (including me) that have been there since ‘96 believe that the league would have folded had the Crew not stuck their neck out and built the first soccer stadium in America. At the time it was revolutionary, but now we can all agree that it is a giant aluminum eyesore that reminds passersby of a giant high school football stadium more than a major league venue. And the location is terrible. The Crew need a new stadium, in a viable location. But that location should be in downtown Columbus, not Austin. Besides, the MLS is a summer league, and who wants to sit out in that Austin heat and humidity in July to watch a game? Probably about the same number of people that half-fill stadiums in Dallas and Houston.

    • Good lord, what terrible bait. Why post something so sophomoric when you know #savethecrew folks read everything and have better ammunition? Columbus has and always will give a damn about their soccer club. From being the original member of the league for securing the appropriate number of season ticket holders before any other city to robust attendance when playing for the MLS title in 2015. Flagging attendance was a product of an implicit effort by ownership and the league, and quite honestly, was still on par with the rest of the league in relation to population. Also, would the league schedule Saturday games to go up against Texas football if Austin were to ever get a team? I highly doubt it.

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