Chattanooga Football Club introduces new CEO Alton Byrd

Contributed photo / The Chattanooga Football Club introduced Alton Byrd as the professional soccer club's next CEO on Friday from the Moxy Downtown Chattanooga hotel.
Contributed photo / The Chattanooga Football Club introduced Alton Byrd as the professional soccer club's next CEO on Friday from the Moxy Downtown Chattanooga hotel.

From spending time with Boston Celtics legendary coach Red Auerbach to getting an up close experience of how one of the world's top professional sports teams operates in Manchester United F.C., Alton Byrd has been blessed with several unique opportunities throughout his career.

The all-time assists leader for New York City's prestigious Columbia University basketball program now looks to help the Chattanooga Football Club continue its upward trajectory as the new Chief Executive Officer for the 15th-year club. CFC is currently undefeated this season in the National Independent Soccer Association and leads the league in attendance.

"I am just a normal guy who has had the good fortune of being a professional athlete, a coach and GM," Byrd said in his introductory press conference at the Moxy Chattanooga Downton hotel Friday morning. "I have worked in the NFL, NBA and WNBA and have been very blessed and lucky. I have always been a student of how business works in sports and have had a chance to see how people do things at the big level. CFC has a historical platform on which I look forward to building on."

A 66-year-old San Francisco native, Byrd will replace Jeremy Alumbaugh after the former CEO resigned on January 31. Alumbaugh recently was named the President of the USL Championship League.

Byrd relocated to Chattanooga in the past month after most recently spending time as the Senior Vice President of Growth Properties and Community Relations for BSE Global, which owns the Brooklyn Nets, the Long Island Nets of the NBA G-League, the New York Liberty of the WNBA and the Nets Gaming Crew — an NBA 2K Esports League.

"CFC has had a very successful history and has a passionate fan base in an emerging city," Byrd said. "We want to be the best at what we do. We want to figuratively own this city. We want to be able to grow our staff and be creative. We want to be able to transform peoples lives and bring everyone together."

Byrd was selected in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics after being a three-time All-Ivy League first team selection for the Columbia, which inducted him into the university's hall of fame in 2008. He went on to enjoy a professional overseas basketball career spanning two decades in Europe, where he became one of Great Britain's greatest ambassadors of the game. The 5-foot-9 point guard was a four-time British League Basketball League MVP and five-time Scottish League champion.

While overseas, Byrd became a dual citizen of the United States and Great Britain in 1984 so he could play for the England men's national basketball team. He also hosted his own television show called NBA Jam Session and had a radio show called Sports American on BBC Radio that aired for five years. He was also captain for Manchester United's basketball team in the 1987-88 season.

"I have had the good fortune of experiencing football at the highest levels of the world," said Byrd, who is a diehard Liverpool FC fan. "Football is life in the United Kingdom. I have seen how those Premier League teams impact their communities of all colors, races, sizes and types. Chattanooga has already made a huge impact nationally and I expect my time here to be transformational. We are going to make some changes and do some fun things with this club as we grow."

From 1997-99, Byrd was the general manager of the London Monarchs of NFL Europe before returning to his hometown state to become the Vice President of Strategic Alliances for the Sacramento Kings from 1999-2002.

Byrd founded his own consulting company, Clear Focus, LLC, in 2002 and worked there until becoming the Chief Revenue Officer for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream from 2013-16.

In 2016, the Brooklyn Nets hired Byrd as the Vice President of Business Operations. Byrd was recognized among the best in the NBA G League for community engagement and spearheading marketing deals with some of the most iconic brands in America.

"Alton's experience at some of the highest levels of professional sports has all of us excited," CFC co-founder and board chairman Paul Rustand said. "Whether it's basketball or soccer, using professional sports to make our communities better is something that Alton has proven to do well at during each stage of his career."

CFC has nearly doubled its staff in the past year and has hopes to make the professional soccer experience even greater for fans of all ages.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly fully expects CFC's new CEO to be a home run hire.

"I think Alton will take this club to a whole new level," Kelly said. "We are so excited to have him and his family here. This is Chattanooga's team and it always will be. It's not everyday you get to meet a fellow Columbia University alumnus. Hiring him was a no brainer for me."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.


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