Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bexar County Withdraws Criminal Investigation into MLS Agreement

Posted By on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 4:54 PM

SAN ANTONIO FC / YOUTUBE
  • San Antonio FC / YouTube
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has called off the legal investigation into how Major League Soccer officials decided against expanding their franchise to San Antonio. That's because — based on his attorneys' analysis — it appears Spurs Sports and Entertainment may be the ones at fault.

Wolff kicked off the investigation after the owner of the Columbus Crew — Columbus, Ohio's MLS team — announced he'd move the team to Austin if the city of Columbus didn't build his team a new stadium. Prior to this announcement, MLS had made clear to it wouldn't establish new franchises (teams) in both San Antonio and Austin.

Wolff, who said he'd been encouraged by MLS officials to purchase the $18 million Toyota Field on the assumption San Antonio would soon have a national soccer team, immediately called foul.

"Bexar County has invested a great deal of money, time, and energy in this pursuit," wrote Wolff in an Oct. 27 letter to MLS Commissioner Don Garber. "As these troubling facts have become public, I have a duty to the taxpayers of Bexar County to question this process and its fairness." He told Garber he was opening a criminal investigation into the MLS.

But MLS' attorney painted a different story in a now-disclosed letter sent to Wolff on Nov. 17.

"As an initial matter, let me say that we are troubled by, and find regrettable, the accusatory nature of your letter ... it is neither productive nor appropriate to make inaccurate statements or veiled threats," wrote attorney Bradley Ruskin. And then: "Based on discussion between MLS and the Spurs, consideration of the Spurs' application is being deferred until the second phase of the expansion process."

It seems that Wolff had been left out of conversations between MLS and Spurs Sports and Entertainment (who created San Antonio FC in 2016 to play in Toyota Field with the intention of entering MLS within six years) when it came to the city's future as a soccer franchise.

On Nov. 29, MLS officially announced its first round of cities it wants to expand to — and neither San Antonio nor Austin were on the list. 

In a Dec. 7 letter to Wolff, county-hired attorney Mikal Watts explained why Bexar County should no longer pursue a criminal investigation.

"MLS's misleading inducements ... do not justify a legal cause of action at this time because [Spurs Sports and Entertainment] withdrew from consideration and because San Antonio could obtain a franchise in a subsequent expansion round," Watts writes.

Wolff accepted the results of this judgement in a media statement, but asked San Antonio soccers fans to not give up hope.

"We will wait until the next MLS expansion round and reassess our options at that time," he said. "In the meantime, I ask that soccer fans continue to support San Antonio FC.”


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