Mark Darbon takes over from Martin Slumbers as Chief Executive of The R&A

The R&A has looked outside golf to find the man taking one of the biggest jobs in the game.

After nine years as Chief Executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers announced in January that he would be leaving the role by the end of 2024. An executive search firm was appointed to find his successor, and the R&A have now announced that Mark Darbon has been appointed Chief Executive of The R&A and Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Darbon will succeed Slumbers in the role, leading the governing body and the organization which runs The Open and AIG Women’s Open, and invests in developing golf around the world in November. He will also become Secretary of the 270-year-old Club, which has a global membership of more than 2,400.

A former senior member of the team leading the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in 2012, Darbon is leaving his role as CEO of Northampton Saints, the Premiership Rugby club, to take up the St Andrews-based position.

Darbon, 45, led Northampton Saints to their first Premiership title since 2014 last month and implemented a commercial strategy which enabled the rugby union club to bounce back from the pandemic to achieve record revenues in consecutive seasons.

The R&A have announced ticket ballot details for the 153rd Open at Royal Portrush

“I am thrilled and honored to be taking up these positions with The R&A and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and to be moving into golf, a sport I have always loved,” he said. “The R&A is a globally renowned organization and does so much to ensure that golf prospers, from grassroots through to the professional game. I am looking forward to working with a hugely talented team of staff, the Club membership, and such an impressive array of partner organizations, to achieve even more success in the years to come.”

Niall Farquharson, Chairman of The R&A said, “We were greatly impressed with Mark’s knowledge and experience of the global sport industry and his ability to develop successful teams and deliver fantastic events. We believe he will be an excellent leader for The R&A and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and will play a key role in helping us to achieve our goal of ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for golf.”

Darbon started his career as a management consultant at Marakon Associates, before joining Diageo plc where he held a number of strategic and commercial roles, living and working in markets all over the world, including the USA, Russia, China, and Australia.

Having transitioned into sport event organization in 2009, Darbon held several senior roles with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and was latterly Head of Olympic Park Operations, overseeing the Olympic Park which housed nine competition venues with 20,000 employees and welcomed 250,000 spectators a day throughout the 2012 games. He went on to serve as an Expert Adviser to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 2013 to 2018.

Following London 2012, Mr Darbon was Senior Vice President of Tough Mudder Inc in New York and was involved in planning, promoting, and staging mass participation events in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Australasia.

Before joining Northampton Saints as CEO in 2017, Mr Darbon served as CEO of Madison Sports Group, a sports events and content company which created an award-winning international series of professional track cycling events and, in doing so, brought a series of new sponsorship arrangements and media rights deals to the sport.

Darbon is a graduate of Worcester College, Oxford University, where he read geography.

As well as being a keen golfer, playing to a Handicap Index of 3.1 as a member of Northamptonshire County Golf Club and Saunton Golf Club, Darbon is a former Under-21 England hockey international and a Full Blue for hockey at Oxford University. He is a non-executive director of England Hockey and Women’s Premiership Rugby.

Darbon is married with two children and plans to move his family to St Andrews when he takes up his new role.

About the author

Rob McGarr is a freelance writer who produces regular content for Today's Golfer.

Rob McGarr – Contributing Editor

Rob has been a writer and editor for over 15 years, covering all manner of subjects for leading magazines and websites.

He has previously been Features Editor of Today’s Golfer magazine and Digital Editor of, and held roles at FHM, Men’s Running, Golf World, and MAN Magazine.

You can follow him on YouTube where – depending on what day of the week it is – he’ll either be trying his best to get his handicap down to scratch or shoving his clubs in a cupboard, never to be seen again.

Rob is a member at Royal North Devon, England’s oldest golf course, where he plays off a two-handicap.

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