A common term during last week’s official introduction of Columbus Crew SC’s new Front Office – and rightly so – was “family.”
It was used a total of 33 times, to be precise.
With the ushering of a new era for the Black & Gold community, it was only fitting to emphasize the aspect that permeates the new make-up of the organization. In congruence with The Haslam Family and The Edwards Family, the Club’s new Investor-Operators, a memorable moment from the behind-the-scenes story of keeping the Crew in Columbus came, of all place, during a conversation around the Haslam’s dining-room table.
“Somebody once asked me at what moment in time did I actually believe that I was willing to bet that this would happen,” said Alex Fischer, President and CEO of The Columbus Partnership.
“There were a bunch of times that I was saying that I was maybe ahead of my skis, but I remember a very specific meeting in which Pete Edwards and I joined Whitney Johnson, JW Johnson, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and (Browns COO) Dave Jenkins at [the Haslams’] dining room table. Two families had a family conversation around coffee and around breakfast. That morning I thought, ‘This is the culture and the type of people that can make this dream a reality,’ and indeed it does.”
Following that meeting, it became apparent to Dee Haslam that the values of the two families mirrored perfectly, in the name of a larger Columbus family.
“That meeting, when you are going to partner with somebody you are going to spend a lot of time with, I think we both had a little concern, but it did not take us long to realize that The Edwards Family and The Haslam Family are a lot alike,” Haslam said.
“They have the same values. Family comes first; the love of sports; they are in a family business. It mirrors our family perfectly. Having a family that you are partnering with in something that is so big and something so big to the community – you want to make sure that it is a good fit. We could not be more delighted to be partners with the Edwards family.”
Dr. Pete Edwards, who has been the official team doctor since the Club’s inception, touched on how the notion of family is intertwined within the fabric of the organization and to the greater Columbus community, from Tim Bezbatchenko’s family being season-ticket holders in the first year, to the Club supporting a family atmosphere, to how Columbus and soccer mirror each other as dynamic and growing entities.
“My family has been in Columbus their entire lives,” Edwards said. “Our friends, our family and our values are all rooted in this community. Nothing can make us more proud than being able to help the community keep an asset that everyone values.
“The fabric of the community involves families, and my family has been blessed to grow up with this team. I have been involved with the team since the first day. My children have been around the players and around the game for 25 years. That leads to the tradition of the families enjoying their time with the team. The Bezbatchenko’s were season ticket holders in the first year, and Tim grew up going to Crew games. That family connection is really, really important, and the traditions that have been born through 25 years of soccer are going to continue. We are going to support the family atmosphere of the team. We are excited to be able to do that.”
The tie to the Crew runs so deep, in fact, that President Tim Bezbatchenko’s mother “used to wear a Crew jersey underneath her Toronto jersey when she went to see games in Toronto because she wanted the Crew jersey to be close to her heart,” Edwards commented.
The combination between experience (The Haslam Family) and a rooted connection (The Edwards Family) created an opportunity that simply clicked, according to Edwards.
“When the Haslams expressed an interest, our very first meeting, it was love at first sight,” Edwards said. “They are such great people, they are so easy to deal with, they have such vast sports experience. We kind of left the very first meeting in their kitchen and I looked over at my team and I said, ‘Wow, that was perfect.’”
On the technical staff side, Head Coach Caleb Porter emphasized that family was a large reason as for his return to Ohio.
“There has been a word thrown around a lot – family,” Porter said. “Family is very important to me. That was a major factor in the decision. Coming back to Ohio and bringing my family specifically to Columbus felt like home. We are truly proud to live in this community.”
Supporters won’t have to wait long to see the new-look family, as players reports for preseason training on Wednesday, January 23 in Columbus, with the home opener scheduled for March 2 at MAPFRE Stadium against the New York Red Bulls.