The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has fulfilled its promise to increase the size of its board by appointing six new non-executive directors, following an extensive search process.
The appointments were described by the authority as bringing considerable expertise to the board, and were selected by a specialist recruitment business Sports Recruitment International, making recommendations to its nomination committee of BHA chair Steve Harman, Racecourse Asscociation (RCA) chair Ian Barlow and Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) president Rachel Hood.
Among the new directors to be appointed is Atholl Duncan, executive director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. Duncan has spent more than 25 years as a journalist for the BBC, rising to head of news and current affairs for Scotland, and sits on numerous advisory boards including the Hibernian Football Club Community Foundation.
He is joined by former Northern Racing operations director Julie Harrington and former horse breeder Noel Harwerth. Previously chief operating officer of Citigroup International, Harwerth has also served on the board of the Tote, and is a director of financial services operations including Standard Life and GE Capital Bank Limited.
Gaming industry veteran Joe Saumarez Smith has also joined the BHA board. Currently co-founder and chairman of software supplier Bede Gaming, he also serves as CEO of industry management consultancy Sports Gaming Ltd, and has advised numerous companies and governments of all aspects of gambling policy.
John Lewis Partnership human resources director Laura Whyte, who does pro bono work for the British Equestrian Federation and Brixton’s Ebony Horse Club, is another of the appointees. She is described as having experience of a wide range of equine issues.
The final addition is Eamonn Wilmott, an entrepreneur who founded training yard Horses First Racing.
The six have been appointed for three-year terms, joining independent regulatory directors Ben Gunn and Andrew Merriam and Steve Harman on the board. Current chief executive Paul Bittar also sits on the board, but will be replaced by Ladbrokes retail director Nick Rust in April next year.
The appointments come after the BHA revealed in July this year that it would look to appoint more independent directors to its board to fit with governance best practice, and ensure its strategy for growing the British horse racing industry could be implemented.
“This is the start of a new chapter for the BHA Board and the next step in its evolution as a governing and regulatory body,” Harman said of the new appointments. “The new appointments mean that there will be a significant broadening and deepening of the expertise around the BHA Board table. This includes media and government relations, individuals with entrepreneurial, investor, financial and betting backgrounds, good regulatory knowledge and considerable training, development and welfare experience.”
Two directors, Morag Gray and Justin Wadham, will step down as a result of the new appointments, with Harman thanking them for their work for the association.
In related news, the BHA reacted positively to UK Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in his budget statement earlier this week that the government would launch a further consultation process early in 2015 as it looks to replace the Horserace Betting Levy with a Racing Right.
“This is extremely positive news for British racing, and all those connected with the sport,” Harman remarked. “We have a landmark opportunity to secure a modern, fair and sustainable funding mechanism, and generate future growth and more jobs in our industry, greater returns to our participants and a new partnership with the betting industry."