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BHA chief executive Nick Rust to stand down after five years at the helm

Nick Rust: joined the BHA after a career in bookmaking
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Nick Rust, who has led British racing's governing body for the last five years, is to step down as chief executive of the BHA at the end of 2020.

In a message to BHA staff on Tuesday, Rust said he had made the decision after a year of reflection on his future following the death of his wife Margarita in November 2018 and wanted to allow time for a seamless transition to his successor.

He said: "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."

Equine flu, Jim Best and the whip: what Nick Rust had to handle as BHA chief

Rust, 52, succeeded Paul Bittar at the head of the governing body in January 2015 following a near 30-year career in the betting industry at Ladbrokes, Coral and Sky Bet.

During his time at the BHA, Rust was integral to the sport's successful effort to persuade the government to reform the levy system.

Other achievements during his time in office have included the creation of the Members Agreement for racing's major stakeholders to work together under the tripartite system, the push for greater diversity among the sport's leadership and a drive towards providing the betting public with information and representation through the Horseracing Bettors Forum.

There have also been controversies, including the Jim Best affair, which predated Rust's appointment but led to an overhaul of the sport's disciplinary and licensing systems following a review by Christopher Quinlan QC.

There were also rows over racing's equine flu shutdown, the reviews of the bloodstock sector and stewarding and an increasing divergence between horsemen and the regulator over equine welfare.

Rust told BHA staff he was "hugely proud" of what they had done for the sport.

He added: "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."

Nick Rust: the process of selecting a new BHA chief executive will begin in the next few weeks

Rust said the industry's Horse Welfare Board was finalising "an ambitious strategy" for further improvement of racing's "exceptional standards of care for our horses".  

He went on: "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."

Rust said the BHA had done other important work recently, including the publication of the bloodstock review.

"If I look back further," he added, "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."   

No shortage of issues for Nick Rust to tackle in remaining months of his tenure

He concluded: "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." 

BHA chair Annamarie Phelps said the governing body would miss Rust's passion and drive. 

She added: "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'll be using all our complementary skills over the next few months to keep racing moving forward."    

The BHA said it would begin the process of selecting a new chief executive in the next few weeks. 

Possible internal candidates include chief operating officer Richard Wayman, while other names from within the sport who could be linked to the position are Paul Fisher, who has stepped down as chief executive of Jockey Club Racecourses, Arena Racing Company chief executive Martin Cruddace and Ascot's chief commercial officer Juliet Slot.

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I believe we can achieve many more things together this year if we continue to focus on a progressive approach
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