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BHA chairman to step down

Steve Harman 250 wideSteve Harman is to step down from his role as BHA chairman in November but is to retain a role in the sport dealing with the relationship between racing and government.

The news brings to an end increasing speculation over Harman's future after the BHA board investigated accusations he had a conflict of interest over his contact with Alex Frost, the chief executive of the Alizeti consortium which is investing in the Tote, at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Inconsistencies in Harman's explanation of events are believed to have been at the heart of the board's actions, although it is thought there have been simmering tensions between the chairman and some board members for some time.

A number of leading figures within British racing stepped in to defend Harman when it appeared his position was under threat and the announcement of his new role means a compromise was reached.

Harman is to work with Westminster on developing the levy due to the threat to racing's finances caused by the government's decision to cut FOBT stakes to £2.

Harman said on Tuesday: "This is the single biggest issue facing our industry and I welcome the opportunity to galvanise support to get the best possible deal for horseracing. This could mean a further reform of the levy to capture overseas betting and other changes we could seek to ensure that the funding of racing is secured for the future."

Harman, whose second three-year term as chairman was due to end next year, robustly denied any wrongdoing and received strong support from many key members of the British racing industry.

He also received a vote of confidence from culture secretary Matt Hancock last week, with the minister saying he looked forward to working with Harman "for a long time to come".

The BHA board had been discussing whether Harman had brought the body into disrepute under article 51 of its articles of association but that has now been "set aside", the governing body said.

Harman has apologised "for inaccuracies in his initial explanations to the board", the BHA went on, adding that an independent review it had carried out concluded that there had been no conflict of interest.

A BHA spokesman added: "We are pleased this matter has now been closed and we can focus on the BHA's core responsibilities of the regulation and governance of British racing."

Harman is widely recognised as having been instrumental in bringing about a sea change in racing's relationship with government which bore fruit with the reforms to the levy system brought in last year.

With further changes being mooted in the levy system following the government's decision to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2, continuing good relations with Westminster is seen as vital within the sport.

It was also revealed at Cheltenham in March that Harman and Hancock had been in discussions about a review of the recruitment, retention, development and wellbeing of stable staff.

The BHA said the process of recruiting a new chairman would begin shortly.

22 May 2018

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