His appointment comes after the sudden departure of long-term executive chairman Peter Cowgill in May.
Mr Cowgill, 69, was credited with turning JD into a retail giant during his 18 years running the business.
However, his no-nonsense approach, as well as his dual role, attracted criticism.
Reports suggested the Rubin family, which owns 55 per cent of JD Sports Fashion through the Pentland Group, ousted Mr Cowgill.
In the wake of his departure, JD laid out plans to overhaul corporate governance and internal controls.
Former Tesco executive Mr Higginson, 64, was most recently at supermarket giant Morrisons, where he was chairman until it was taken over by a private equity firm last November.
He grew up in Bury, Greater Manchester, where JD Sports Fashion is still headquartered.
Helen Ashton, the group’s interim chair, said: “The board was impressed with the high-quality candidates that we met throughout the recruitment process.
“Andy, however, stood out as the best candidate with his extensive board experience including as a chair and his strong track record in the international retail sector.”
Mr Higginson, who has also held top jobs at Unilever, Guinness, Laura Ashley and Burton Group, said: “Having closely followed JD’s success over the years, I see it as an exceptional business.
“The board has clearly been addressing its governance and risk-management structure.”
The group has yet to fill the other key role of chief executive on a permanent basis. Alongside its full-year results in June, JD said it was continuing its search, “with a number of high-calibre candidates at different stages of consideration”.
Mr Higginson is likely to have a big say in who finally gets the top job.
Broker Shore Capital said: “We see this as a positive evolution while waiting for the formal CEO confirmation, expected over the summer.”
Shares in JD, which is worth more than £6.2billion, rose after yesterday’s news.
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