BrewDog wants to buy an MLS club and sell it back to the fans

BrewDog has announced it wants to buy a football club in America and sell part of it back to the supporters.

Columbus Crew celebrate their team's 3-1 win over Atlanta United in October. Picture: Getty Images
Columbus Crew celebrate their team's 3-1 win over Atlanta United in October. Picture: Getty Images

James Watt, CEO of the brewery, wrote a letter last weekend outlining his plans to buy Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew through a crowdfunding effort.

The Aberdeenshire firm has its American base in Canal Winchester, around 25 miles from Columbus.

In October, owner Anthony Precourt confirmed in a statement that his Precourt Sports Ventures firm was exploring options to ensure the ‘long-term viability’ of the Ohio-based club, including ‘remaining in Columbus at a new stadium or potentially relocating the club to Austin, Texas’.

BrewDog's American base is around 25 miles from Columbus. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Despite being the first charter to be granted in Major League Soccer in 1996, Columbus Crew has had to contend with dwindling crowds and is struggling to attract the same sort of corporate backing enjoyed by other MLS sides such as Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake.

Precourt said at the time: “This club has ambition to be a standard bearer in MLS, therefore we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options.

“This includes a possible move to Austin, which is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a major league sports franchise.

“Soccer is the world’s game, and with Austin’s growing presence as an international city, combined with its strong multicultural foundation, MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.”

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BrewDog's American base is around 25 miles from Columbus. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Columbus Crew is ‘near the bottom of the league in all business metrics and the stadium is no longer competitive with other venues across MLS.’

Should Columbus Crew remain in Ohio, the team needs a ‘downtown stadium’, according to Precourt, as a result of data showing MLS clubs to be most successful and relevant when playing at a downtown location, or ‘at a site that is a destination for the entire community’.

Mapfre Park, Crew’s current stadium, is located in the north of Columbus, with a capacity of just over 22,500.

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Supporters began a campaign dubbed #SaveTheCrew in a bid to keep the Eastern Conference side in the Buckeye State following Precourt’s announcement, with the craft beer firm joining the campaign.

Watt’s letter read: “We have now joined the discussion and effort with the Columbus Partnership and City and County officials to #SaveTheCrew.

“Like most fans, we believe in the power of great teams to galvanize their communities. The Columbus Crew is an important and long-standing part of our community.

“We stand with the passionate football (soccer) lovers across the world who believe that the game belongs to the fans.

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“At BrewDog, we are world-leading pioneers and experts in crowdfunding and community ownership. Indeed our own business is part owned by a community of over 60,000 craft beer lovers and we have raised over $60 million through crowdfunding over the last few years.

“We would love to facilitate and be involved in a potential purchase of the Columbus Crew from its current ownership structure and then immediately look to sell at least half of it back to the fans through crowdfunding.”

There are also plans to launch a new craft beer - Crew Brew - to support the movement.