Judge Wolff questions MLS over Columbus-Austin connection, asks Bexar DA to investigate

Crew owner Anthony Precourt exploring move to Austin

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is seeking clarification from Major League Soccer about San Antonio’s bid for a MLS expansion franchise after the owner of the Columbus Crew announced earlier this month his intention to relocate to Austin. 

The potential move would almost certainly end San Antonio’s chances of landing an MLS franchise during the next round of expansion.

Wolff submitted a letter on Friday to MLS Commissioner Don Garber that stated the announcement on Oct. 16 by Columbus owner Anthony Precourt came as a surprise. 

In the letter, Wolff revealed Precourt and the University of Texas-Austin have reached an agreement on the use of the UT’s facilities in 2019 and MLS has registered trademarks in Austin this year.

The letter also alluded to the county’s purchase of Toyota Field and county being misled by MLS. It read in part: 

“On November 2, 2015, Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott met with Bexar County Manager David Smith and me. We discussed our proposed plan to purchase Toyota Field and made it clear that we would only purchase Toyota Field if there was a clear path toward a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in San Antonio. Mr. Abbott encouraged us to move forward and submit a bid. We were also told that Major League Soccer would not establish franchises in both Austin and San Antonio. 

“Over the past two years, we have pursued a franchise by purchasing Toyota Field and submitting an application. It has been widely reported that Mr. Precourt, whom you appointed to the Major League Soccer expansion selection committee, obtained a legal right to relocate the Columbus Crew to Austin when he purchased the franchise in 2013. If these reports are accurate, this presents a clear conflict of interest. Had Bexar County officials been aware of such a right, we would not have invested in Toyota Field.   

Wolff asked the Bexar County criminal district attorney to investigate the matter and report any findings to the commissioners court. 

Wolff said he is still committed to bringing an MLS franchise to San Antonio, but wants answers from the league about the future of professional soccer in the Alamo City.

UPDATE: San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg addressed the situation on Monday afternoon. Here is a statement from his office to KSAT-12:

“While it is clear that the market, fans and bid team make San Antonio the most compelling case for MLS expansion, we need to know all of the facts about the situation. In response to the recent news stories regarding the potential relocation of the MLS team, Columbus Crew, from Ohio to Austin, I have asked the City Attorney and staff to review the matter and assess its potential impact to the City, as well as the local bid for an MLS team.” 


Letter From Judge Nelson Wolff to Don Garber by RJ Marquez on Scribd

About the Author:

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.