The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has confirmed that Chairman Joe Saumarez Smith will continue in his role until 31 May 2025.
The extension was backed by the BHA’s nominations committee, and the sports governing body’s Board ‘unanimously supported this recommendation’.
Smith stated: “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.”
One of the reasons given by the BHA for the extension of Smith’s tenure as Chair was his ‘leading role’ in restructuring the sports governance and launching an industry strategy, alongside Chief Executive Julie Harrington,
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.
“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.”
In an interview with Racing TV back in September, Smith discussed a range of topics impacting modern racing, and at the end of the interview touched on the Gambling Act review White Paper.
He said: “Personally I would like to see it published as soon as possible. It is good for a proper discussion about what the policy should be and what protection of people who have problem gambling disorders.
“We can’t ignore that, and it would be much better that the white paper came out and we can lobby about the aspects we don’t like and support the ones we do.”
Smith is no stranger to the gambling industry, and not just because horse racing is one of the sports most intrinsically linked to the sector.
As a businessman he 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).
Smith explained that in this capacity he has supported racing’s place as a sustainable and responsible betting product, but did not play down the possibility that it could still be a cause of addiction.
“We have strongly made the case that it is a far less addictive product, that customers engage with it in a different way – but the reality is you can still get addicted to betting on horse racing,” he informed interviewer Nick Luck.
“The overall percentage of people who get addicted are lower, but the number of people who bet on horse racing is high, so it’s still a meaningful number and we as a sport should not be looking to profit from those people.”