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Julie Harrington to step down as BHA CEO

| By Marese O'Hagan
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has announced that Julie Harrington will step down as CEO after four years in the role.

Harrington’s tenure will officially wrap up at the end of 2024. She agreed to stay on until the end of the year to support the transition to a new CEO.

During her time in the role, Harrington oversaw a number of changes within the BHA and wider British horseracing. This included garnering support for British horseracing’s long-term industry strategy and working to progress its people strategy. With the people strategy, Harrington introduced the Horseracing Industry People Board.

This growth, Harrington said, is why now feels like the right time to leave her role as CEO.

“With so much now in place to develop and grow the industry strategy, which will secure a brighter future for British horseracing, it felt like the right time to move on and let someone else steer the sport through its next exciting phase,” she explained.

“It has been a huge privilege to lead the BHA during what has been a period of real change as the sport has developed and implemented shared strategies for a sustainable future and an ability to speak with one united voice.”

Harrington added that she is proud of how far the industry has come, particularly in relation to horseracing’s governance strategy. This strategy was agreed upon in November 2022 and involved rearranging the BHA’s corporate governance agreements. It paved the way for the industry strategy to be implemented.

“I love working in horseracing; it is an amazing sport to be involved in,” she continued.

“I am proud of the progress the industry has made over the past three years, especially in improving the governance structure and I hope that racing’s stakeholders will continue to work together cooperatively to attract new audiences, further improve the customer experience and grow the sport.”

BHA chair Joe Saumarez Smith also moving on

As for her next steps, Harrington said she would likely move to a non-executive role.

Alongside the announcement of Harrington’s departure, the BHA also announced that Joe Saumarez Smith will be stepping down as chair. Smith’s time as chair will come to an end in May 2025. The process to find his replacement began last month.

Harrington noted that her resignation allows the nomination committee to organise a smooth handover. In addition, it will allow Smith’s replacement to partake in the final stages of CEO recruitment.

Smith said that Harrington’s tenure had been influential for both the BHA and British horseracing.

“During Julie’s tenure we have completely changed the governance of the sport and the BHA’s role within it,” he said. “Her influencing skills, often behind the scenes, have been key to that change and also in the positive adjustments made to the Gambling Act white paper that posed such a threat to our sport.”

When the Gambling Act review white paper was published in April last year, the BHA was generally positive about the policies included. Harrington pointed to the confirmation of a review of the horseracing betting levy as a highlight.

However, at the beginning of May, Harrington expressed caution around the affordability checks pilot announced by the GB Gambling Commission. The pilot will allow the Commission to test whether it can “refine the data sharing processes before assessments are rolled out in a live environment”. It will last for six months.

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