UPDATED: with league comment on Plush.
After what was generally seen as an offseason of positive growth for NWSL, league commissioner Jeff Plush has stepped down “to pursue new opportunities,” per a league press release. As per a league spokesperson, Plush will not step down immediately and will help with the transition.
Plush helped the league negotiate its current three-year deal with A+E, which includes a national broadcast component on Lifetime network, and was also involved in the Orlando Pride expansion, as well as selling the Western New York Flash to North Carolina where they will begin playing this spring as the Courage. Overall it seems as though the league is slowly but surely growing while trying to maintain as much stability as possible, which makes it such a surprise to see Plush go.
Common complaints over the length of Plush’s tenure since he was named commissioner on January 6, 2015 have been that he is not visible enough, and that long stretches would go by without news from the front office. Fans often wondered what Plush was doing, and he was notoriously good at giving generic answers urging patience without revealing much of what the league was doing, especially on the lack of national sponsorship deals. After the A+E deal emerged, it seemed that Plush was merely a cards-close-to-the-vest guy as opposed to someone obfuscating a lack of movement behind the scenes.
Perhaps with the new deal in place, Plush figures to use this as a stepping stone to another job opportunity as stated by the league. Perhaps there was much more going on behind the scenes, although the language of the release and the timing suggests it really is about Plush getting a better job offer. It’s a good bet that recent league hire Amanda Duffy, managing director of operations, is on a short list to become new commissioner.
This article will be updated as more information is available.