Joe Saumarez Smith’s tenure as Chair of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has been extended for a further three years.
Having replaced Annamarie Phelps in June 2022, Smith was initially assigned the role until 2023, but the body has now made the decision to extend his time in office until 31 May 2025.
This will represent a full three-year term for Smith, with the BHA citing his ‘leading role’ in restructuring the sports governance and launching an industry strategy, alongside Chief Executive Julie Harrington.
Smith remarked: “I’m delighted and honoured to be asked by our shareholders to extend my term. I look forward to working with all of racing’s stakeholders on the many issues facing the industry, especially relating to our long-term strategic direction. I am sure that together we can achieve many positive results.”
The extension of his contract was recommended by the BHA’s nominations committee, and the sports governing body’s Board ‘unanimously supported this recommendation’.
To add the extra years to the Chair’s tenure, the BHA’s members approved an amendment to the authority’s Articles, allowing the updated office term to be offered.
As a businessman, Smith is Founder and CEO of Sports Gaming Ltd, a gambling consultancy firm, and is the Chair of Bede Gaming and the Gambling Strategy Group (GSG).
“I am delighted that Joe’s term as Chair has been extended,” Harrington remarked. “We have made great progress together in resolving the sport’s governance structure and initiating work on an industry strategy.
“Now is the time for stability as we look to develop and implement the strategy, drawing on the advantages of the new governance structure to bring about radical change for the sport.”
Laid out in June after Smith took on Chair duties, the BHA’s new strategy examines a number of areas, including prize money, the race programme, equine and people welfare, collection and use of data, the owner experience, breeding, integrity, customer engagement, international and domestic marketing of racing.
The strategy forms part of a cross-sport joint effort between the Racecourse Association (RCA), Thoroughbred Group (TG) and the BHA, with the latter taking on responsibility for coordinating on behalf of racing’s stakeholders.
Discussing the BHA’s outlook for horse racing in an interview with Racing TV’s Nick Luck earlier this year, Smith outlined demographic challenges as a key area of concern.
Notably, he observed a study from the University of Liverpool which found that younger bettors are far more likely to show interest in football, whilst older bettors are still focused on racing.
“That is a major worry to the sport, if we don’t have people betting on the sport in 20 years time, we’re in trouble,” he said. “So how do we change that?
“My son is an Arsenal fan, he’s 14 now but Arsenal first began engaging with him when he was four, through outreach into schools, things like Gunnersaurus.
“I’m not saying that horse racing needs a Gunnersaurus, but too often – and there are racecourses that do really well – we wait until people can drink and gamble and that’s too late.”