Crew owner claims Columbus is bad for business, actual numbers show otherwise

SBNation’s Elliott Turner dug into Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s claim that he needs to move the team to Austin because the “business is struggling,” and, surprise surprise, it turns out this is not so much the case:

  • The Crew currently pay a piddling $72,000 a year in rent. In fact, they’ve only paid $1.14 million in rent their entire 19-year history.
  • The team pays no property taxes on its stadium, an annual savings of $414,000. The New York Red Bulls, by comparison, pay more in property taxes each year than the Crew have paid in their lifetime as a franchise.
  • The Crew brought in around $11 million in ticket revenue in 2017, plus about $1 million in parking revenue, plus an undetermined share of naming rights money. Turner doesn’t provide comparable figures for other MLS teams, but it’s worth noting that the Crew were right in the middle in terms of team revenues in past rankings.

Is that thriving? The team’s total payroll is under $6 million, so … really, it depends on how much it costs to run the rest of the operation. But the Crew’s costs and revenues are pretty comparable to other MLS teams, so this means that either 1) Precourt is lying about needing to move in order to turn a profit, or 2) pretty much all MLS teams are struggling financially. And either way, there’s no reason to think he’d be better off in Austin. It’s almost as if he’s trying to come up with an excuse to threaten to leave, in order to get subsidies for a new stadium out of Columbus — hmmmmmm.


35 comments on “Crew owner claims Columbus is bad for business, actual numbers show otherwise

  1. I’ve come to suspect the second point may be correct. MLS doesn’t appear to be a successful league even all of these years into its operation.

    • It’s the only league to spring up on it’s own and survive in the last 75 years. They did it without the NBA as a sugar daddy and without billions in public subsidies and without the sports media putting it on a pedestal while fighting off legal challenge to it’s very existence and constant bashing. To some it’s success that they even survived.

        • Arena went out of business. It came back after it copied the MLS business model. The same model the football players union challenge in court. As for the AFL , I did say without receiving billions in subsidies and being put on a pedestal by the sports media.

          • Completely different (and far more inept) group of mostly af2 teams that are now out of business that were already starting their own league before buying name and intellectual property rights in bankruptcy. Only by technicality does it carry the history of the old league. It’s like calling both Charlotte Hornets, both Cleveland Browns and both (MLS version) Earthquakes the same team.

          • I love that we can now take the foolish “false consciousness” model peddled by Thomas Frank and apply it to the sports world as well.

            In a free media environment, is it possible that media coverage follows what people may actually be interested in?

            For the record, pro football was not particularly popular until the late 1950s (compared to baseball and college football), so the AFL wasn’t really the beneficiary of an admiring media. In fact, they helped create it.

          • I think the fact that a sport so popular at the college level and basically shovel down your throat at the high school level took until 1950 to succeed says it all. What happens to the AFL without favorable or at least objective treatment from government & media , NFL Europe !

          • I’m not really even sure what you are talking about. The NFL and AFL became more popular in part because it became a TV-friendly sport, and because they had good executives. Shoveled down your throat?

            As it happens, American football still exists in Europe. In fact, you can watch it on regular TV in Germany every week (not true for top-league soccer in most of Europe). You can also watch or play (among other sports) handball, basketball, track and field, volleyball, and hockey.

            I’d think this is a sign of success–where we have a choice, right?

          • The whole high school experience is centered around the football team. That’s why we have 11-8-6 man football. Anything to keep the shoveling up into a new century. So all it takes to make your league successful in a foreign country is to give them free rights. Then why play games in London if you’ve already attained success.

          • The AFL chose to shut down its 2009 season after the players unionized. Bankruptcy came later, when the league didn’t have any money coming in and couldn’t agree on a collective bargaining agreement: http://www.espn.com/extra/afl/news/story?id=4375473

      • I guess you tend to forget franchise fees helping to prop up the revenue and a virtual labor caste system right? MLS is a marginal league with marginal talent and will never reach the heights of EPL or La Liga. Until they open up the purse strings (which they can’t because they don’t have the revenue to do such) and establish a reliable talent pool, they will remain marginal.

        • Didn’t forget it. Someone once called the mls a ponzi scheme. If that is what is keeping it financially viable along with sweetheart stadium deals, I stand by my position that mls is struggling. Getting completely dominated by the Mexican and English leagues on television.

    • Most soccer teams in big leagues aren’t all that financially successful. They survive by developing players and selling them to wealthy teams, or by taking little known players, making them better known, and then selling them.

      MLS doesn’t have that kind of player development pool yet, so they are trapped by running a “big league” without financial resources to match.

      • I agree , because of it’s worldwide popularity the TV ratings , & profits will always be fragmented among several leagues. Most leagues need to develop and sell to turn a profit.

        • Probably 60% of the teams in the Premier League and 75% in the Spanish league are ultimately sellers. They just have more money than selling teams from other leagues.

  2. Thanks…. have always wondered whether RBNY had some sort of tax treaty/pilot plan in place. I know the construction cost was a horror show, in no small part because of the site they were “helped” to discover.

    It’s a great stadium, but the location isn’t great. I assume that impacts it’s ability to attract supplementary events?

  3. Plain & Simple ! Precourt wants what the city has given to the other teams in town. A public subsidized downtown location. He hasn’t asked for operating subsidies YET. In his defense , not sure how much rent should be paid on a privately built stadium .

    • Basically everyone in the world agrees that the hockey deal was awful for Columbus. Exactly why would they do it again? Because it’s fair???

          • Agree they don’t hate the Crew. The powers in Columbus have indeed decided which business will get an unfair advantage and which won’t. If your a business man you need to cut your losses or take the crap.

          • The powers that be. In Columbus?

            Again, the point of this article is–whether the Crew get an “unfair” advantage from the city or not– that they are doing fine financially (by the standards of MLS) and doing very well on the field.

            I guess the average citizen might wonder where exactly the problem is.

          • BTW, nobody knows if the Crew lose or make money. They probably break even. They get to keep most sponsor money and ticket money , however they have lowest price tickets in league and low attendance. So if they break even they should be happy.

      • “Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were ten years ago”
        – Bernhard Berenson

        so, um, I guess that’s a yes???

  4. There’s no reason to think that Seattle, Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United, Portland, Vancouver, or Toronto are necessarily struggling to make money. The single entity structure blurs the lines, but having the Crew in around the “middle of the pack” financially certainly FEELS about right.

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