Credit: National Indoor Soccer League news release
The National Indoor Soccer League (NISL) announced the appointment of veteran sports executive Gary Tufford as its League Commissioner on Monday, July 24.
Tufford is familiar with NISL operations, as he began last season as the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Strikers, the league’s newest expansion franchise at the time. After assisting with the build of the team, Tufford moved on to a league consultant role to finish out the 2023 season. The announcement formalizes his association and support of the league for future seasons.
NISL President, Mary Ellen Rogers elaborated on Tufford’s selection, stating, “Gary brings a career’s worth of professional sports experience to our team, in addition to an understanding and commitment to what we are trying to accomplish. Those items, in conjunction with his passion for the game and operational excellence make him the perfect choice to serve as the NISL’s first Commissioner. Much of our work this off-season will be around continuing to solidify the foundation of the league for future growth and success and Gary will be key to that. I could not be more thrilled to have him as a partner in our work as we showcase our stellar athletes and take professional indoor soccer to more fans across the country.”
He is no stranger to the role of Commissioner in the professional sports arena as he has held that post for several other leagues, including the World Indoor Football League (WIFL), Southern Indoor Football League (SIFL), and American Tennis League (ATL) over the course of his career. Tufford also served as the Executive Director of the American Indoor Football League (AIFL) and the Indoor Football League (IFL).
Additionally, Tufford has run front office and on-field operations in multiple other positions, holding the roles of General Manager and Head Coach of the Erie Invaders of the IFL, President and Head Coach of the Greensboro Prowlers of the Arena Football League and the President of the Greensboro Generals of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). On-field experiences include stops in the NFL, CFL and AFL as either a coach, scout, or manager. He was also a pro football player for both the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
His broadcasting experience rivals his team and league experience with many network and independent productions in various sports, commercials, and live-event television to his credit as a producer and director. He is currently the executive producer for Sportsflix TV, an independent production company specializing in live sports production.
“I am excited to be at the helm of the NISL, along with Mary Ellen. We share the same vision and passion for this league. There is much to be done for sure, but so many good things are already in place that my job becomes more about tweaking and maintaining the system rather than creating something new. The NISL has a lot of moving parts, and it takes much effort and constant maintenance to keep those pieces in tune. Now that the league is a couple of years in, it can mature and grow into something special and unique in the soccer world and the professional sports landscape,” stated Tufford.
The NISL is expecting to expand on its five teams from 2023, which included clubs in Memphis (TN), Fayetteville (NC), Columbus (GA), Orlando (FL), and Tampa (FL). Plans are in the works for potential expansion teams throughout the South, Mid-West, and Northeast to join the league and compete in 2024. With a unique brand of indoor soccer, each NISL team fields both Men’s and Women’s teams that compete in a doubleheader format each game day.