4 min read

Garcia and Rushton to lead APL after Townsend’s departure to SRJ Sports


Danny Townsend, CEO of the Australian Professional Leagues (APL), has stepped down from his position to take the helm of SRJ Sports Investment, the sports investment division of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The APL, responsible for overseeing both the men’s and women’s A-League competitions, has not yet named a direct successor for Townsend.

Instead, James Rushton, the managing director of APL’s digital division, KeepUp, will share leadership responsibilities with APL Commissioner Nick Garcia, both reporting to the APL board and the newly appointed independent chair, Stephen Conroy.

Rushton will continue to oversee the ongoing development and implementation of APL’s digital strategy.

Conroy expressed his confidence in the two seasoned global sports executives, while also paying tribute to the outgoing CEO.

“Danny [Townsend] leaves the game stronger than ever and with a talented and committed executive team in place. We wish him every success in his new role,” Conroy said.

“As the organisation moves into its next phase of development, we welcome the joint leadership of two highly experienced global sports executives and passionate football fans, in Nick Garcia and James Rushton. Each of their appointments was the product of extensive search processes that resulted in what is an incredibly strong APL executive leadership team.

“The focus of the whole organisation remains on delivering a successful A-League Men and A-League Women 2023-24 season.”

Townsend (main image) assumed the role of CEO in December 2021, having previously served as the CEO of A-League club Sydney FC for four years. During his tenure, he led the APL through significant milestones, including unbundling the A-League competitions from governing body Football Australia, navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and securing a new collective bargaining agreement along with a five-year rights deal with Paramount. Townsend also oversaw substantial investment in the leagues from private equity firm Silver Lake.

To leverage the opportunity presented by Australia hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year, Townsend oversaw the introduction of three new teams into the women’s A-League. He initiated the expansion process for the league in Auckland and Canberra for the 2024-25 season, with plans for further expansion in the 2025-26 season.

Reflecting on his time at APL, Townsend expressed pride in the progress made and the achievements attained during his three-year tenure.

“We’ve made incredible progress over the last three years, and I am extremely proud of what we have achieved as independent leagues,” Townsend shared.

“I will always feel privileged to have had this opportunity to serve the game I love. I very much look forward to seeing it continue to grow at pace.”

Rushton, who joined APL earlier this year after serving as the acting CEO of the international sports streaming giant DAZN, will now take on a more significant role in guiding the organisation. Garcia, announced as APL’s commissioner in June, previously held key positions at marketing agency CSM Sport and the City Football Group, a multi-club ownership group.

Townsend will now transition to his role as the CEO of SRJ Sports Investment, where he will steer the strategic direction and foster the organisation’s growth within the local and global sports investment sector.

SRJ Sports Investment was launched by the Public Investment Fund in August to drive the expansion of the sports sector in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region. Recently, it sealed an investment agreement with the Professional Fighters League to acquire a minority equity stake in the PFL and introduce the regional league PFL MENA, focused on nurturing local and regional talent in martial arts.

Bander Bin Mogren, chairman of SRJ, expressed enthusiasm about Danny Townsend’s appointment and the confidence in his leadership to achieve significant success for the organisation.

“Danny will help drive SRJ’s ambitions to deliver long-term impact through strategic, sustainable investments,” Mogren said.

“The Board of Directors are confident in Danny’s leadership and strategic vision for the organisation, and we look forward to achieving great success together.”

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