Australian Professional Leagues confirms departure of CEO and appointment of new Executive Leadership

Take a look at some of the huge match-ups across the weekend as Isuzu UTE A-League football returns for a brand new season.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) has today confirmed the departure of CEO Danny Townsend, who will take up a new role based in the Middle East.

Nick Garcia, Commissioner of the A-Leagues and James Rushton, Managing Director of KEEPUP, will lead APL moving forward, reporting to the Board and newly appointed Independent Chair the Hon Stephen Conroy.

Chair of the Board, the Hon Stephen Conroy, said: “The APL has undergone extraordinary growth in just a two-and-a-half-year period under Danny’s leadership, and we thank him for his service to football in Australia and New Zealand, both as CEO of the APL and before that as CEO of Sydney FC.


“Danny 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.

“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 Isuzu UTE A-League Men and Liberty A-League Women 2023-24 season.”

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

Executive Insights

Danny Townsend formally joined the APL as CEO in December 2021 and led the organisation through its ‘start-up’ phase following the separation from Football Australia.

In the first two-years of operation, the APL signed a new, 5-year broadcast deal with Paramount ANZ, created a record-length CBA which embedded gender equity, welcomed naming rights partners for the men’s and women’s leagues in Isuzu UTE and Liberty Financial, rebranded as ‘A-Leagues’, and welcomed investment from global technology investors Silver Lake.

The Liberty A-League Women welcomed three new women’s teams as part of a strategy to ready the game for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and began the process for expansion in Auckland and Canberra in 2024-25, and for further expansion the following year.

Danny oversaw the launch of the KEEPUP network in October 2021 to bring fans of football closer to the game through its platforms and original content, and the implementation of market-leading data and marketing technology to help the league and its clubs to better serve fans.

Nick Garcia

Nick Garcia, the current A-Leagues Commissioner will continue to oversee the A-Leagues strategic and tactical business operations and its administration, and will be the day-to-day custodian of the A-Leagues. He will lead APL with James Rushton, MD of KEEPUP. He remains responsible for developing and enhancing the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, Liberty A-League Women, A-League Youth and E-League competitions, and for managing league operations and commercial outcomes.

Nick joined the A-Leagues in February 2023 and was formally appointed as Commissioner in June 2023. Nick has two decades of sports administration experience having worked with some of the biggest brands and rights holders in global sport.

His previous role was Chief Executive Officer of Ospreys Rugby in Wales, where he held a dual position as Director and Head of Team Sports for the Osprey’s ownership group Y11 Sport and Media. Before this, Nick was Group Chief Executive of Al Jazira Football Club in the United Arab Emirates, was Managing Director of Chime Sports Marketing (CSM) in the Middle East, and held senior commercial roles for Manchester City FC in the English Premier League and City Football Group.

James Rushton

James Rushton, the current MD of KEEPUP, the digital arm of the APL, will share the leadership responsibilities for APL with A-Leagues Commissioner Nick Garcia. He will continue to be responsible for the ongoing development and delivery of the APL’s digital strategy, implementing and scaling innovative strategies, product and content, and creating club-focused digital products to grow engagement with A-Leagues clubs.

A 25-year veteran of the sports media business, James is the founder and former CEO of DAZN, the world’s leading sports streaming platform. As one of the founding partners and APAC CEO of PERFORM Group, James is vastly experienced in the B2B2C sports media, sports data and digital publishing industries.

James gained an Executive MBA from Birmingham University and started his executive career at Birmingham City FC when they were promoted from the Championship into the Premier League. He recently returned to live in Melbourne.  



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