When the rumor (and eventually confirmed news) that Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam were part of the ownership group trying to #SaveTheCrew, I knew I needed to race back from Cleveland to share and document the big night. I celebrated with many of you and interviewed several folks, and I will get to all of that in the coming week. For now, however, I wanted to share a brief Q & A with Columbus Partnership President & CEO Alex Fischer, who, along with his wife Lori, surprised Crew fans with an after dinner appearance at the Endeavor Brewing celebration. They wanted to share in the emotion of the night. Alex kindly stepped aside for few minutes to answer a few high-level questions to share with our Crew community.
Q: Obviously, this is a big day in the process of saving the Crew. What are your thoughts on the scene with the fans here tonight?
Alex Fischer: “It’s a great day. A year ago, we were all in the dumps over what the future would look like, and there have been all sorts of ups and downs on the journey. Ten months ago, the mayor and I were riding back from a terrible meeting in New York wondering what the future was going to look like. We both agreed that we were just going to stay after this. Tonight is a culmination of a potential future. We’re not done. Look, this is just the beginning. We have so much work that has to be done, but it’s exciting to see community-oriented families like the Edwards family, which has been synonymous with Columbus, and the Haslam family, which I have known for decades both in Tennessee and Ohio, who share the values of what it means for a team to personify Columbus and Ohio and a community. So this is a great opportunity for us to think about the future. We’re coming out tonight, and my only hesitation is that this is just the beginning. We’re nowhere close to being done, so we need to take all of this enthusiasm and drive it home in terms of support for our new ownership to make this the best city in the world for soccer.”
How important has the #SaveTheCrew movement been for drumming up enthusiasm in the business and political spheres, from your perspective?
“Absolutely critical. There’s no way we are here without this enthusiasm. From day one, this enthusiasm caught the nation’s attention, and it’s that attention that caught the league’s attention, the investors’ attention, and that of the other corporate leaders of Columbus that might not have been paying attention. Everybody wants to thank me or us in the corporate community, but no way. This is all about #SaveTheCrew and the movement that happened at the grassroots level, because without it, none of this is happening.”
What can you share about the ownership group with the Edwards family and the Haslam family?
“This is a blending of two families that are committed to community. Families that are committed to Ohio and Columbus and a set of values and principles. I think one of the great things that has been missing about the Columbus Crew is local ownership. I think the exciting thing about today is that we see a group of local owners here in Columbus and throughout Ohio that have committed to this community and are selfless in terms of how they think about their contributions. They all recognize that it’s not their team, but it’s Columbus’s team. That’s what I love about this. They recognize that they are the keepers of a Columbus asset and that’s a great value structure.”
There seems to be a growing connection between Columbus and Cleveland, especially with sports. You have affiliate relationships between the Indians & Clippers and the Blue Jackets & Monsters, and now the Browns and Crew will be linked together.
“Look, Columbus and Cleveland have a special relationship. They are great cities. Cleveland has been the stalwart of the state of Ohio for decades and Columbus is a city on the rise. Together, we’re unstoppable, so I love this partnership between Columbus and Cleveland. I love the rivalry with Cincinnati and the fact that they’ve got a new team and we’ve got a team and that we’re going to have an I-71 rivalry. That is fantastic.”
I know you said it’s not 100%, so when do you think we might hear more about finalizing this deal?
“I think we’re just getting started. If we believe that this is the end, then we are finished. This is just the beginning. There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of momentum to be created, but it’s going to be the enthusiasm like this that is going to get it done.”
So tonight you decided to come out and celebrate with the fans. What does it mean to you to share in this moment with them?
“Personally, I like to be in the background. I made a choice not to be very public in all of this. So Lori and I said, after dinner, let’s go out and hug some people and celebrate a little, which is unusual for us because I’m pretty private. This necessitated that. It’s fun to be with everybody and to show a little emotion and to be energized by this grassroots movement.”
And now you get to take the energy back to work with you on Monday?
“We’re going to take it back with us because on Monday morning, we need to get back to work and make sure that we make this happen.”