Annamarie Phelps CBE is due to vacate her position as the Chair of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) in May, when her term on the body’s board ends. 

A former Olympic rower – having competed in the 1986 games and held the responsibility of Chair of British Rowing from 2013 to 2018 – Phelps first assumed the role of Chair of the BHA in June 2019, and had previously indicated that she wanted to continue in her position.

However, Phelps confirmed today that she had made the decision not to extend her tenure as Chair, as the BHA is undergoing a restructuring to “provide clarity on the BHA’s role as governing body and regulator”.

“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,” the outgoing Chair commented. 

“A significant review of the BHA is also underway, which will ensure that the BHA is future-proofed, efficient and has sufficient resources to serve racing’s needs.”

Reflecting on her nearly four years as Chair, Phelps described the position as a “great privilege” and praised the appointment of Julie Harrington as CEO, whilst achieving a set of core objectives for the governing body. 

These goals included recognition of the BHA board’s responsibility for regulation and governance matters, leading a strategy for industry growth, retaining a level of independent representation and agreeing to review the authority’s tripartite decision-making structure.

“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 continued. “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.”

Phelps will be replaced by Independent Non-Executive Director Joe Saumarez Smith, who will hold the responsibility until the end of his term on the BHA board in September 2023. 

Smith currently serves as Chair of the Gambling Strategy Group (GSG), Chief Executive of online gaming management consultancy Sports Gaming Ltd, Chairman of sports betting, casino, lottery and bingo platform Bede Gaming and part-time Shareholder Director of slots company Eyas Gaming.

He has also been involved in matters relating to the betting levy as Chair of the GSG, a topic which the horse racing industry has been increasingly vocal on in recent years – many are calling for an overhaul of the levy which would see operators pay a percentage of their revenues instead of profits to the sport. 

“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 remarked.

“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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