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MLS, Precourt Sports Ventures appeal dismissed – Sports – The Columbus Dispatch – Columbus, OH

The Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals on Thursday dismissed the appeal filed by Major League Soccer and Precourt Sports Ventures in Ohio and Columbus’ suit against the league and Crew operating group.

The dismissal comes a little more than a month after PSV and MLS filed their appeal of Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey M. Brown’s order.

They argued the order, which granted a 90-day pause in the city and state’s lawsuit, amounted to an injunction preventing the team’s ability to relocate to Austin, Texas, after the 2018 MLS season. They further contended that several provisions put in place by the judge, including a meeting with both parties and deadlines by which the parties must agree on information and nondisclosure agreement terms for potential purchasers of Crew SC, were not called for.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein argued that because the order was not final, it could not be appealed. The appellate court agreed in its assessment that PSV and MLS did not establish that an immediate appeal is necessary in this case.

“Appellants have not met that burden with respect to the trial court’s May 8 order,” the 10-page decision concluded. “We do not have a final appealable order in the matter, appellees’ motion to dismiss is granted, and this appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”

The court also argued that PSV and MLS overstate the impact of the order on the team’s relocation efforts, indicating it is instead Ohio Revised Code 9.67, the basis for the city and state’s lawsuit, that might impact or delay a move.

The law, commonly referred to as the “Art Modell Law,” argues that an owner whose team plays most of its home games in a tax-supported facility and receives public benefit must first provide six months’ notice and locals the opportunity to purchase the team prior to moving.

PSV and MLS have held that they have provided notice they might relocate on several occasions and have further stated they do not believe the law applies in this case because MLS and not PSV owns the Crew. The city and state have countered that no notice of the team’s imminent relocation has been given.

“Outside of the court’s application of equitable tolling, the impact of which is minimal at present, it is not the court order that has imposed the burdens complained of, it is the statute itself,” the decision read. “The court’s order otherwise imposes no immediate additional restraint on appellants’ operation of the team and exploration of opportunities in a potential new host city.”

Brown, the court of common pleas judge, said in his May order the court will not rule on the constitutionality of the Modell Law until after the 90-day tolling period is complete.

“Any appeal before then is premature,” the Thursday appeals decision read.

An MLS spokesperson expressed disappoitment with the ruling.

“While we are disappointed and disagree with the Court’s decision, as we have publicly stated Major League Soccer has been engaged in discussions during the ongoing lawsuit with potential local investors and business leaders about a plan to keep MLS in Columbus,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue these discussions in an effort to determine whether there is a viable plan for MLS to be successful in Columbus.”

Klein said in a statement he is pleased.

“We look forward to restarting the process set up by Judge Brown,” he said. “This has been a minor detour and now we can get back to the business of seeing whether we can Save The Crew and keep the team in Columbus.”

DeWine echoed Klein’s thoughts.

“I am pleased by the dismissal of this unfounded appeal,” DeWine said in a statement. “We hope that the Defendants will not seek to engage in further delay, and that they will participate in the conversations here in Columbus directed by the trial court while working towards complying with the statute.”

Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer declined to comment on the court’s ruling and said he is under a nondisclosure agreement and participating in a valuation of the team.

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD

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