Northampton Saints has announced that Mark Darbon is to be the club’s new chief executive.
Darbon arrives at Franklin’s Gardens in late July with a wealth of experience under his belt from a career spent working for some of the world’s biggest sporting brands, including as a senior figure in the delivering of the London 2012 Olympics.
After over five years with Diageo as a global strategy manager, then strategy director for greater China and finally commercial director for Diageo’s whisky brands in Europe, in 2009 Darbon joined the sporting sector to help lead the delivery team for the London Olympics.
There he was executive assistant and chief of staff to LOCOG’s chief executive, before becoming head of pre-games events between November 2010 and May 2012 and then head of Olympic Park operations for the duration of the Games themselves.
In early 2013 Darbon was appointed senior vice president, Americas, for Tough Mudder, which has become one of the world’s fastest-growing mass participation sports events businesses, with in excess of two-and-a-half million people having taken part worldwide.
Darbon returned to London from Tough Mudder’s base in New York as chief executive of Madison Sports Group to launch a series of professional cycling events across Europe. The ‘Six Day Series’ has become a highlight of the sport’s calendar with the events known for matching competitive action on the track with entertainment and an excellent atmosphere in the stands.
Darbon may have global experience but he is familiar with the East Midlands, having been educated at Bedford School and achieved a hockey Blue during his time at Oxford University.
Saints chairman Tony Hewitt says that Darbon was the unanimous choice of the appointment panel.
“We wanted to make sure that we had the right person to lead us into the next era of what is a very competitive Aviva Premiership and European club rugby environment,” he said. “We carried out a thorough search for our new chief executive using leading executive headhunters, and it is a reflection of how the Saints is viewed that we had some exceptional candidates be interviewed for the role.
“But it was our unanimous decision to appoint Mark, someone who we believe has all the qualities and attributes to be an excellent chief executive of Northampton Saints in the years to come.”
Chairman-elect John White says that Darbon will have a positive impact on the Saints as the club enters a new era.
“I’m looking forward to working with Mark,” he said. “He was a superb candidate with plenty of experience of developing big sporting brands and sponsorship opportunities and delivering exceptional events, three significant areas for us as we look to grow in the future to meet the demands of the Aviva Premiership and European rugby.
“But Mark also understands the importance of putting supporters at the heart of the club and the position we have in the Northampton community, and he is enthusiastic about furthering our work in these areas, too.
“Allan Robson has been an excellent chief executive and I would like to thank him for his efforts over nearly two decades. However it is time for a fresh and exciting approach and we believe that Mark is the right person to take us forwards.”
Darbon himself is relishing the challenge of taking the Saints to the next level.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be joining Northampton Saints,” he said. “The club’s rich history and incredibly strong fan base provides such opportunity for the future, and I can’t wait to work with the full team to deliver on and off pitch success.”