Annamarie Phelps steps down as BHA chair

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After a career in British rowing including an appearance at the Olympic Games, Phelps took on the role in June 2019 after working for a variety of governing bodies within the industry. The announcement comes on the eve of Cheltenham Festival.

Phelps said: “It has been a great privilege to lead the BHA during this challenging period for the sports sector, and to have recruited a fantastic CEO in Julie Harrington. I am immensely proud of what racing has achieved collectively in this time.”

She added that she was proud of the organisation for the way it handled a number of major challenges, including the COvid-19 pandemic, while she was chair.

“I want to thank the amazing BHA team for navigating the pandemic and for keeping the show on the road behind the scenes, a role that is rarely acknowledged,” she said. “It is a remarkable achievement that no fixtures were lost to Covid once British racing had become the first major sport to resume following the initial 2020 lockdown.

“We have also dealt successfully with some serious and complicated ethical and integrity matters that have set important precedents for the future, laid the foundations for greater diversity and inclusion across the sport, enhanced the industry’s educational resources and safeguarding provisions and further increased our focus on the welfare of our horses and our people; all of which are essential to the sustainable health and prosperity of racing.”

Joe Saumarez Smith, currently an independent non-executive director, will take on the position of chair until the end of his term in September 2023, following the conclusion of Phelps’ term in May.

Smith is currently the CEO of Sports Gaming Limited, a London-based management consultancy to the gaming sector. He has over 20 years’ experience in the industry, having had shares in more than 80 horses and written for a variety of horseracing and gambling publications, as well as founding Bede Gaming.

“On behalf of the BHA board, I would like to express my thanks to Annamarie, who has brought a broad perspective from other sports to the BHA board table,” Saumarez-Smith said. “During her time as chair, she has laid the groundwork for significant change across the industry in a number of areas, and helped us navigate a series of challenging issues, not least the coronavirus pandemic and the BHA’s own governance.

The agreement of a number of core governance principles is potentially a defining moment for the industry. I look forward to continuing to work with Annamarie until the conclusion of her term.”

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