Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, along with Don Garber, Commissioner of Major League Soccer, jointly announced at the Hilton Garden Inn on Marietta Street that Major League Soccer would be coming to Atlanta on April 17, 2014. Darren Eales was tapped to be the club’s President and CEO, tasked to oversee the fledgling club from its embryonic stage. Today, Eales was named to the same position with Newcastle United Football Club, a charter member of the English Premier League. 

“Newcastle United is both a giant of a club, and the heartbeat of its community,” Eales said in a statement. “Every time I have visited St. James’ Park, I’ve been overwhelmed by the passion of the fans. This is a club with an amazingly rich heritage, and I am delighted to be joining for this new chapter in its long history. I am grateful for the opportunity, and look forward to working with the rest of the team to help this storied club fulfill its potential.”

Eales will remain with Atlanta United until August 8th and will begin his role in Newcastle August 22nd.

The 49-year-old Eales will work alongside Newcastle’s sporting director, Dan Ashworth, for the second time in his career after the two worked closely at West Bromwich Albion between 2006 and 2010. 

Newcastle’s investment group, comprising PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media, said in a statement: “We are delighted to announce Darren Eales as the club’s new CEO. He is an exceptional leader and is a great fit for Newcastle United.

“We have conducted an exhaustive recruitment process to ensure we identified and secured the right individual for the CEO position, and we are confident we have found that person in Darren. He has a deep understanding of the football industry and what it takes to achieve growth and success, and he will be a key member of the club’s leadership team as we look to deliver on the club’s potential on and off the pitch.”

MLS Atlanta President Darren Eales approaches a podium during a party at which Atlanta United FC was announced as the name of the MLS soccer expansion team, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

When Atlanta United was created in 2014, Eales led a club that didn’t have a name or a logo. However, immigrants, Africans, the Latino communities, and Americans inside Metro Atlanta who were already exposed to the beautiful game welcomed the team with open arms.

However, Atlanta’s larger sporting landscape was not sure, at the time, if a largely fickle fanbase would be receptive to “Soccer in the South.”

On March 5, 2017, 55,297 fans showed up to Bobby Dodd Stadium for Atlanta United’s first regular season match against the New York Red Bulls. Even though the Five Stripes lost the match 2-1, Atlanta United branded Bobby Dodd Stadium as a cauldron of noise, a multicultural party that would bring social media influencers and inside-the-perimeter city dwellers together with suburban families. 

Coupled with the region’s Latino communities which brought their cadence of music, support, chants, and fervent passion, Atlanta United had a fan base that was ethnically and socio-economically diverse, which was part of Eales’s plan all along.

Under Eales’s leadership, Atlanta United won MLS Cup in 2018 and also captured US Open Cup and Campeones Cup titles in 2019.

“Darren Eales is one of the best hires I’ve made in my career and the strength and success of Atlanta United to date is a credit to him not only as a leader, but as a passionate footballer,” said Arthur M. Blank, owner and chairman of the Blank Family of Businesses. “I’m thrilled for Darren to have this new opportunity to lead Newcastle and I see it as a very positive reflection of Atlanta United and what our club has achieved in such a short time. Darren is more than ready to lead Newcastle and I know he’ll be an outstanding leader of that club. He leaves with my deepest respect, admiration and very best wishes for him, Faith and their two beautiful sons.”

Recently, Mercedes-Benz Stadium was named as a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup

Steve Cannon will take over the role as CEO until the club identifies Eales’s successor.

“It has been the adventure and honor of a lifetime to help build Atlanta United. I will always be grateful to Arthur Blank, both for giving me the initial opportunity, and for providing unparalleled support and leadership throughout the journey. I have been privileged to work with an amazing team of people who rolled up their sleeves and made a vision into reality. And I have loved being a part of this vibrant city, with its brilliant, passionate supporters. Thank you, Atlanta, and thank you 17s.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...