Annamarie Phelps will step down as Chair of the British Horseracing Authority at the end of May following the conclusion of her three-year term in office, having revealed that racing’s tripartite decision-making structure – comprising the BHA, horsemen and racecourses – is under review.
Phelps, 55, who spent five years as Chair of British Rowing, was appointed to the BHA post in April 2019 and started with the regulator two months later, succeeding Steve Harman.
Joe Saumarez Smith, current Independent Non-Executive Director whose term on the BHA board concludes in September 2023, will take on the role of Chair from June 1 for the remainder of his term.
Phelps said: “Following discussions with the board of the BHA I have decided not to extend my time as BHA Chair beyond the end of the current term.
“This is a very important time for racing, with the recovery from the pandemic and the imminent publication of the Gambling Act Review White Paper both still very much on the sport’s agenda. A significant review of the BHA is also underway, which will ensure that the BHA is future-proofed, efficient and has sufficient resource to serve racing’s needs.
“We are at a key stage of discussions around a new governance structure that will provide clarity on the BHA’s role as governing body and regulator.
“I am therefore delighted that I have been able to develop the following core principles with the BHA shareholders prior to my departure.
“Firstly, recognition that the BHA board will maintain responsibility for both regulation and governance matters with an additional responsibility for leading the strategy for industry growth on behalf of our shareholders. That it will retain the same level of independent representation as at present, in line with governance best practice. Alongside this, we have agreed that the tripartite decision-making structure will be reviewed.
“There is much to do over the next three months to ensure these measures are fully and firmly in place for my successor before I step down, which I hope will provide a more appropriate, democratic and effective decision-making structure for the future.”
She continued: “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.
“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. 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.
“I want to thank all those who have welcomed and supported me over the last three years, in particular those racecourses, trainers, owners, jockeys, stable staff and breeders who have shared their insight, aspirations and opinion, both here and overseas. I have loved the people, the racing and especially the horses.”
Saumarez Smith said: “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.
“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.”