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Annamarie Phelps to step down as BHA chair at end of May

Annamarie Phelps will step down as chair of the British Horseracing Authority when her term concludes at the end of May.

Former Olympic rower Phelps took up the role in June 2019 after working for a variety of governing bodies, but she will be replaced by current independent non-executive director Joe Saumarez Smith, whose term on the BHA board concludes in September 2023. He will take over from Phelps until the end 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.

“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.

Annamarie Phelps is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Prince of Wales during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Annamarie Phelps is made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Prince of Wales during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“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 is already chair of British racing’s Gambling Strategy Group and has played a prominent role in matters relating to betting and the Levy.

He 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.”

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