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Chelsea tap former Sky Sports and London 2012 commercial director as new marketing chief

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Chris Townsend OBE is set take over in May for Christian Purslow who stepped down last week.

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The new Chelsea commercial director to replace Christian Purslow has been identified. As confirmed by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Townsend OBE will not renew his contract as CEO of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) at the end of April and will take over the vacant position at Chelsea instead. Purslow stepped down last week after a highly successful 2.5 years, but will be helping out during the transition period as needed.

This news has not been confirmed by Chelsea just yet, but there’s little reason to doubt its veracity.

BDUK is a government body in charge of overseeing public broadband infrastructure, and during Townsend’s three years in charge, they’ve extended coverage to over 90% of UK premises. That’s just the latest accomplishment in Townsend’s glittering career in marketing, stretching back to the late ‘70s when he joined EMI to sell (vinyl) records. Working his way up and through a few stops, he eventually ended up at BSkyB, where he was instrumental in launching Sky Sports (and the Premier League) into what it still is today. Ten years later, after a brief stop at Telewest (now Virgin Media), he was group marketing director at Transport for London where he helped market the launch of Oyster cards. Then, a few years later he was director of the London 2012 Organising Committee, a service for which he was later named OBE.

And now he’s coming to Chelsea.

Born in what was then known as Rhodesia (currently the Republic of Zimbabwe) to British parents, Townsend moved to England at age 11. According to this MT profile from 2011, Townsend thus “retains that sense of being an outsider fitting in, never quite happy to stay long in one place”, though that latter quality is hardly unique in this field. Townsend’s career is littered with massive accomplishments and successes and much of the same will be expected of him at Stamford Bridge. His jobs have run the gamut from entertainment/media, public services, sport, and technology — experiences that should give him a unique and comprehensive perspective to lead the next step of Chelsea’s commercial growth.