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Nick Rust to stand down as chief executive of BHA at end of the year

Tue 14 Jan 2020

Nick Rust will step down from his position of chief executive at the British Horseracing Authority at the end of the year.

Rust has led the the BHA for almost six years, but signalled his departure in a message to staff on Tuesday.

He told colleagues: "I’ve spent much of the past year reflecting on my situation after my personal bereavement at the end of 2018. I wanted to let you and the BHA know my decision and plans well ahead of leaving to allow plenty of time for a successor to be identified and appointed

"This is a fantastic job leading a team of passionate, hard-working people who want racing to have a prosperous and sustainable future as a clean, fair sport that looks after its horses and its people. You demonstrated that visibly with all the effort you put in to resolve the equine flu problems last year but I know how much more unseen work is going on across the BHA to progress our sport. I am hugely proud of what you do for British racing and thank you all.

Rust was a guest on Luck On Sunday in March after the Cheltenham Festival

"With the committed support of our new Chair, Annamarie Phelps, the BHA has put itself, and helped put our sport, in a place where we can be optimistic about our future. The foundations for success are in place. Only this afternoon, I spent several hours with our Executive team reviewing our plans for 2020. We have a busy and exciting year ahead.

"The industry's Horse Welfare Board which the BHA and our members set up only eight months ago is finalising an ambitious strategy for further improvement of racing's exceptional standards of care for our horses. For me, it will be a landmark moment after an unrelenting focus on this issue over the past few years. I'll begin the process of implementing the plan to deliver the BHA's part of the strategy, but given my decision, it's the right time for someone else to pick up the challenge of delivering on these ambitions through a programme of work we expect to take five years or more."

He added: "The BHA has also completed some other important work over the past few months, which I have personally championed. We published the review of the buying and selling of horses just before Christmas. We have established a safeguarding team to protect young and vulnerable people in our sport. Our new approach to raceday stewarding is bedding in and the industry is picking up the challenge on diversity and inclusion as we saw so vividly in 2019 through the amazing story of Khadijah Mellah and the remarkable achievements of our female jockeys.

"If I look back further, I’m very proud of the way the sport came together to secure a very important change to the Levy in 2017. Without it, racing’s finances would be in a more difficult place than they currently are. The BHA team I lead worked hard over several years to put forward the arguments to government and the industry ensured that a consistent, simple message was communicated to Parliamentarians and the media. It’s an important reminder of the influence that racing can exert when we work together in a common purpose.

"Of course, there's always more to do and racing faces its share of challenges as any sport or business does. The job's never done. But my successor can look forward to the support of a top-class Chair and an expert Board, a capable and excellent team and an industry that when it comes together and works in a collaborative way can be highly effective.
"2020 promises to be a great year for British racing. I believe we can achieve many more things together this year if we continue to focus on a progressive approach that keeps British racing relevant, understood and accepted."

Commenting on the announcement, the BHA's Chair, Annamarie Phelps, said: "We're all going to miss Nick's passion and drive. It is typical of his deep commitment to British racing that he's given us plenty of time to find a new leader, avoiding a vacuum and ensuring a seamless transition. He's been a great help to me personally over the last few months as I've got to know the sport and the industry. We'Il be using all our complementary skills over the next few months to keep racing moving forward."

Soon after, it was revealed Paul Fisher will stand down as Chief Executive of Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) in February.

Fisher has worked for The Jockey Club for 19 years, initially joining JCR (then known as Racecourse Holdings Trust) at the start of 2001 as Finance Director of its three London racecourses. He was promoted to Managing Director of Kempton Park in 2005, before taking on responsibility for running the UK’s leading racecourse group in 2008 as JCR’s Chief Operating Officer. He was made Managing Director in 2013 and its Chief Executive in 2017.

JCR stages more than 300 horseracing fixtures each year at its 15 venues nationwide, including some of the nation’s biggest events, such as The Festival presented by Magners at Cheltenham, the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree and The Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs.

Fisher said: “After 19 fantastic years at The Jockey Club, and more than ten of those running Jockey Club Racecourses, I’ve decided it’s time for a fresh challenge. I’m proud of the commercial growth, record prize money contributions and significant improvements to our facilities and the overall customer experience we’ve been able to deliver around the country at our courses, large and small.

“I’ve also really enjoyed introducing a range of innovations and launching successful ventures, such as Jockey Club Catering, Jockey Club Services, Jockey Club Live and Rewards4Racing, as well as our Racecourse Bond that attracted £25 million of investment from racing fans and enabled us to successfully redevelop Cheltenham.

“But most of all I’m proud of how we’ve developed so many talented people, including through the Management Academy I introduced, and the positive culture we’ve built together. I wish them all the very best.”

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