SBJ/Aug. 11-17, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Head of NFL’s international push leaving league

Chris Parsons, the NFL’s senior vice president in charge of international, resigned on Friday to take a job running a consumer products company. 

The development comes as the NFL is on the verge of playing three regular-season games in London this fall for the first time. League officials said they plan to continue with, and perhaps increase, their commitment of resources to international efforts despite Parsons’ departure.

Chris Parsons will run a consumer products company.
Photo by: NFL

“International and fan development is a huge priority for us, so it will be critical with his departure we not only maintain that priority but, in all honesty, increase the weight and resources we put behind it,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s chief marketing officer. “That is where I will spend a lot of my time in the near future.”

The loss of Parsons, who reported to Waller, is the NFL’s second recent high-profile division head loss, following the departure earlier this year of Frank Supovitz, the league’s events chief.

“It was a hard decision,” Parsons said. “You know how passionate I am about this [international] and how it has grown the last five years. And it will keep growing.”

Parsons declined to name the company he’ll lead other than to say it is a consumer products company headquartered in Massachusetts. An executive recruiter reached out to him about the position, and he termed it too good an opportunity to pass up. He informed Waller two weeks ago of his decision.

Before arriving at the NFL in 2008 as vice president of international, Parsons worked for Diageo, the England-based spirits company, at a time when Waller worked there as well. The NFL last year promoted Parsons to senior vice president, a perch from which he oversaw the dramatic investment by the league into his native England, with talk the league could base a franchise in the country. 

The league played a single regular-season game in London from 2007 to 2012, two last year, and now three are scheduled this season.

Parsons, who was based in New York, oversaw a staff of more than 40 employees around the world, according to his LinkedIn page. Recently, he began focusing on what comes next in the wake of the league’s U.K. push, Waller said. 

“We have an agenda to take the U.K. focus to the next level,” Waller said, “and we have an emerging agenda to build out other growth drivers in the international business.”

Waller plans a review of the structure of the league’s international operations in the next few weeks to determine how to replace Parsons. While he said it is too soon to say whether the replacement, or replacements, for Parsons come from inside or outside the league, the NFL has a “pipeline of internal talent,” he said.

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