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.
Steve Adler is absolutely panicking, almost as badly as Richard Suttle did. The wheels have completely fallen off this ten month train wreck, and it’s one of the most painfully horrific self-inflicted PR disasters in American sports history. #SaveTheCrew
— Morgan Hughes (@Morgan_Hughes) August 10, 2018
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.
— 💛🖤gringacongatos #SaveTheCrew (@gringacongatos) August 10, 2018
— John A (@JABItalia) August 10, 2018
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.
I wonder how the other leaders of @MLS feel about PSV and Suttle's performance last night. Today might be a good day to remind them that they can either be on team #WeBlundered or team #SaveTheCrew. https://t.co/bsOwZByAun pic.twitter.com/q2Xa0aCVBf
— Lady Stank (@ladystank) August 10, 2018
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.
*Thread* PSV's community benefits total fell dramatically as lobbyist Suttle admitted, and Mayor Adler asserted, the MLS Academy should not be included.
The new present value, 20-year total is $20.3 million.
Or, 94.3% LESS than the $354 million claimed in PSV's June proposal.
— Dan (@SolonTLG) August 10, 2018
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.