Julie Harrington Exits BHA Chief Role; Future Prospects Unveiled

Julie Harrington’s tenure as the CEO of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is set to conclude at the end of 2024, marking the end of a dynamic era. Harrington has consented to stay on until the year’s close to ensure a seamless transition to her successor.

During her leadership, Harrington presided over substantial changes within the BHA and the broader arena of British horseracing. She successfully rallied support for British horseracing’s extensive industry strategy and made significant strides in advancing its people strategy. An essential part of this was the establishment of the Horseracing Industry People Board, an initiative designed to promote workforce development within the sector.

Harrington expressed that the industry’s current growth trajectory prompted her decision to step down, as it seemed an opportune moment for new leadership. “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 noted.

Reflecting on her tenure, Harrington shared her pride in her role during a pivotal period of transformation. “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,” she articulated.

One of Harrington’s proudest achievements was the overhaul of horseracing’s governance strategy, which was finalized in November 2022. This strategic realignment restructured the BHA’s corporate governance agreements, setting the stage for the new industry strategy’s implementation. “I love working in horseracing; it is an amazing sport to be involved in,” Harrington added passionately. She further expressed hope for continued cooperation among racing’s stakeholders to attract new audiences, enhance customer experiences, and foster the sport’s growth.

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Looking at her future, Harrington revealed a preference for transitioning into a non-executive role, signalling a shift from her current executive responsibilities.

In a parallel announcement, the BHA also disclosed that its Chair, Joe Saumarez Smith, will be stepping down in May 2025. The search for his successor began last month. Harrington remarked that her resignation would allow the nomination committee to plan a smooth succession, concurrent with Smith’s replacement participating in the final recruitment stages for the new CEO.

Smith commended Harrington’s impactful leadership. “During Julie’s tenure we have completely changed the governance of the sport and the BHA’s role within it,” he stated. He praised her behind-the-scenes influencing skills, which were crucial in these changes and in making positive alterations to the Gambling Act white paper, a significant policy with ramifications for the sport.

The BHA regarded the Gambling Act review white paper published last April positively, particularly the review of the horseracing betting levy. However, Harrington exercised caution regarding the affordability checks pilot announced by the GB Gambling Commission in May. This pilot aims to experiment with refining data sharing before implementing assessments in a live environment over a six-month period.

In conclusion, Julie Harrington’s leadership at the BHA was marked by significant achievements and transformational changes. As she prepares to transition out of her role, the foundations she has laid are poised to continue driving the industry forward. The horseracing community now looks ahead to new leadership to navigate the sport through its forthcoming evolution, promising an exciting future.