Austin FC was hated by many football fans long before the stadium started at McKalla Place, and the hatred rests with many Columbus Crew fans as their club heads to Austin Q2 Stadium on Sunday.
When Verde 20,500 fans took part in their first home game last Saturday, a small plane flew high in the sky with the slogan “PRECOURT IS A SNAKE” roaring behind it. Columbus had taken the first jab from Austin FC and, in particular, Austin FC owner (and former Columbus Crew SC owner) Anthony Precourt.
Précourt meets his former team again on Sunday, and Columbus fans are not happy to see him on the floor of his new stadium.
Meanwhile, Austin FC fans are delighted that Precourt has brought the city to its long-awaited first major league title. Austin FC fans Hernan Gonzalez and Bryan Saldana, who also run YouTube’s WeAreAustinTV fan response center, said they were ready to stand up for the owner who brought the MLS team to their city and caused havoc in their home stadium. “We won’t take it,” Gonzalez said.
Here’s a story of how the tension started and continued before it all boiled down to Q2 Stadium.
Columbus Crew SC was one of the first 10 teams to be awarded when MLS was formed in 1996, and in 1999 the Ohio Stadium Home was renamed Crew Stadium.
“(It’s) a historic stadium, a historic club,” Gonzalez said. “Fans have been there for years … People (they might say) their grandfather was a Staff fan.”
Precourt, meanwhile, emerged when Precourt Sports Ventures bought the club in 2013. Under his leadership, the franchise hired captain Gregg Berhalter and secured his place.
Enmity stems from the famous clause from the secretly concealed secret in the Precourt treaty with Columbus. Precourt had been thinking of Austin since his inception with the club. According to the clause, Precourt could not transfer the original MLS team to any city other than Austin, Texas.
Precourt did not move until 2017. When the club struggled with the old stadium and reduced attendance, Precourt asked Columbus for a new state-sponsored stadium. When the city disagreed, Précourt began to review the exit clause, which remained unknown to hard fans. The idea arose to relocate workers to Austin. Columbus fans were outraged and the “Save the Crew” revenge movement was born.
Précourt did not transfer the historic club; after the trial he found a new club in Austin with MLS commissioner Don Garber. A young Austin FC was born, and Saldana said it was a win-win situation for both clubs.
“People can say whatever they want, but I feel like everyone is winning,” Saldana said. “They saved their team, they got a new stadium, (and) we have our team.”
Columbus did not see it that way. Okoa Crew members signed the petition, urged Austin residents to slow down, and went on to speak out against the betrayal.
Emotions remain clear today. When asked to comment on the competition and the upcoming game, the Columbus Crew fan group of Murderers had only one thing to say: “No competition, just hatred towards Anthony Precourt.”
Austin FC against Columbus Crew
Austin FC’s enemies are not limited to Columbus. Who doesn’t want a brand new stadium, a spirit of friendship and a new pro team to celebrate at a bar here?
Other competitors for the new MLS expansion, including San Antonio, are not very happy with Austin FC. However, thousands of fans, from co-owner Matthew McConaughey to the Loud and Proud Fan Club, are not deterred by that hatred.
Gonzalez said he understands where Crew fans come from, but it’s not fair to be angry with City and a team that was just happy to have a major league team in the first place. “We never asked for that,” Gonzalez said. “Précourt brought something that we always wanted to have.”
Instead of bowing down, Gonzalez and Saldana say they accept the competition. “As this competition goes on, we will not accept the flag that has been unveiled by the hatred we receive from Columbus fans. We want to give them that power.”
Austin fans are already earning the reputation of being a passionate, peaceful community aligned with Austin culture, but Gonzalez and Saldana are imitating shirts.