By Bob Johnston
April 15, 2020

Sydney Football Club CEO – Danny Townsend

Danny Townsend and I had a great conversation, covering topics ranging from sports as “the great unifier” to Danny’s co-founding a highly successful business prior to joining Sydney FC to his days a pro football player. Plus lessons around leadership that cross the business and sports genres. Danny is an up and coming CEO in the sports world. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name for a long time to come.

Danny Townsend is CEO of Sydney FC. As a co-founder of sports intelligence agency Repucom, he helped build the company into a pre-eminent sports consultancy, working with leading football clubs in Europe, Asia and the United States. More recently in his role as Co-Global Managing Director of Nielsen Sports he has been at the forefront of the sports industry working across the NBA, NFL, English Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, to name but a few.

Danny also has substantial experience in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and African regions where he developed relationships with the Asian Football Confederation, key domestic leagues and leading brands investing in sport.

In 2015 he was recognized by the Sports Business Journal as one of the 40 most influential global sports executives under 40.

A former Australian footballer, Townsend played in the National Soccer League at both Parramatta Power and Sydney United where he was a member of the Premiership winning team in 1999.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Castbox, or your preferred podcast platform.

Sports is the great unifier"
– on the importance of sports in society
We let our work do the talking."
– on the importance of being stealth for as long as possible with his startup; ultimately selling it to Nielsen for $250m

2:15 Minute Marker
How folks in Australia thought through turning off sports due to COVID-19

How partners and fans are dealing with closure and financial considerations

What the day looks like now for a team CEO
Lots of phone calls
Some team execs are taking pay cuts

What it looks like when sports gets turned back on again
Staged process
Playing behind closed doors as a possible first step
Come out the other side with folks feeling even closer to sports

Will see a bounce back in grassroots amateur sports
Great way to enjoy life

On being a pro football/soccer player
Getting MBA via correspondence while playing

Inspiration for starting Repucom
Belief that massive big brand investments in sports deserves real ROI

On running a pro football club
Focusing on top talent

On startups asking prospective customers what they want and their pain points then finding a way to provide it

On expanding his startup to London, Singapore, US and 19 other markets globally
Disrupting marketplace by staying under the radar as long as possible
Never sent out a press release

Rolled up some of the competitors after coming out of nowhere

On selling his startup for $250m to Nielsen
Working for Nielsen for 18 months
Making sure all employees landed at good companies and had a smooth  transition

Taking on the role at Sydney FC while transitioning from Nielsen
Juggling two time zones

What’s changed after leaving his hometown for 14 years to run his startup and then returning home to run Sydney FC
More money in the game
More innovation
Australia has a lot of pro sports teams – more than metro NYC as a barometer
Using Australia as a petri dish for his startup

Driving tribalism is key in sports
MLS’ participation base is growing and will continue to do so
Adding top talent always helps the brand


Danny Townsend on Twitter

Sydney FC