Sports

Columbus Crew: Examining the Truth Behind all the Noise

One fan explores the metrics behind the claims

Since Anthony Precourt announced intentions to relocate our beloved Columbus Crew to Austin, there has been an immense amount of support from the community to #SaveTheCrew.

Businesses are spreading the word and the city recently met with Crew SC owner, Anthony Precourt, and MLS commissioner, Don Garber, to attempt a deal to keep the team in their Columbus home. Throughout this entire process, there has been a lot of differing information coming from many sides and it’s hard to decipher what is accurate. These most recent negotiations were no different with both sides claiming the other was uncooperative and unwilling to come to an agreement.

At the heart of all of this are claims from the Precourt Sports Ventures team that ultimately, it’s not sustainable to keep a team in Columbus. This leads us to wonder whether there is any truth to their claim?

Luckily, Columbus resident and Crew SC fan, Tim Myers had already set out to get to the bottom of that question. Others have disputed Precourt’s claims, but Myers decided to dig in and explore the facts behind these claims.

Myers put together analysis “using publicly available data and reports to investigate the recent claims by key MLS & PSV stakeholders.”

In Tim Myers’ impressively thorough report (which can be read in full here), he breaks down some of the metrics that contribute to the current situation. He comes to a final conclusion that “any business can claim it struggles while never releasing its financial data. Attendance is one sports business metric that IS publicly available. If a club and league wanted to purposefully, but quietly, reduce its attendance as a justification for eventual relocation, the 2017 Columbus Crew season would be a textbook example.” He supports this conclusion with some in-depth reporting.

 

MLS contributing to the struggles?

One of PSV’s claimed struggles is the club’s schedule. Through a predictive model Myers designed, he sees that the club was given a disadvantageous schedule from the MLS. This included more home games during the less popular March/April months of the season and 3 weekday matches against top road draws that would’ve otherwise maximized attendance if they had been scheduled as weekend games. The MLS doesn’t appear to have given this kind of schedule to any other club in the past 5 seasons.

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As Myers puts it, “this begs the rhetorical question: why would MLS knowingly do this to a club that has been supposedly struggling with its business metrics for years?”

 

PSV contributing to the struggles?

Aside from scheduling struggles, Myers explores the attendance drop at MAPFRE stadium as a result of the club’s own lackluster promotional efforts.

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For the 2017 season, the team planned just eight promotional events to encourage game attendance, compared to the 13 that were planned in 2016. The frequency of promotions is significant because Myers finds that games with promotions result in roughly 2,300 more fans (regardless of the day of the week, month, or opponent). The tougher schedule dictated by the MLS paired with the lack of promotions was a perfect storm to detract attendance.

Moreover, when the promotions are both needed the most and most effective – early in the season – the club planned none.

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Community contributing to the struggles?

PSV’s claim has been that the “challenge in Columbus is simple, [they] don’t have broad-based community support and that’s been based on 22 years of history, tradition, and legacy. Secondly, [they] don’t have the corporate support [they] need in Columbus.”  

If this claim is accurate, then it spells a pretty gloomy future for many other MLS markets that are performing far worse than Columbus in terms of business and community support.

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The counterevidence to this claim that the team is lacking community support is most visible with the Columbus Partnership and local business leaders recent attempt to buy the team and BrewDog’s recent attempts to negotiate an acquisition.

Myers’ evidence makes a compelling case that both the league and PSV intentionally put the Columbus Crew at a disadvantage in order to justify their decision relocate. Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson re-affirmed this suspicion on 97.1. This is further supported by the fact that Precourt included an escape clause to relocate the team to Austin when he first purchased the team in 2013. But this hasn’t curbed the team’s determination on the field as they continue their playoff fight against Toronto on Tuesday. And this won’t deter the support of the Columbus fans as we fight to #SaveTheCrew.

Read the full report from Tim Myers here.

 

Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2006. A connoisseur of being a connoisseur. Also daylights as marketing director for SEEN Digital Media and 1812.