Clare Salmon, the chief executive of the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), has resigned from her post.
A statement from Joanne Shaw, chair of the BEF, said: “It is with great regret that I can confirm that Clare Salmon has resigned from her position as chief executive and will be leaving the British Equestrian Federation.
“I should like to thank Clare for her outstanding contribution to the BEF during the last year. Her leadership and vision for an inclusive, accessible and sustainable future for equestrianism were warmly welcomed and supported by the board. In particular, Clare was the driving force in reshaping the World Class Programme to ensure the confidence of our funding partners in granting ongoing funds.
“In resigning, Clare has raised significant and serious concerns about culture, governance and the interaction of some of the BEF’s member bodies. The board considers that there are legitimate questions to be answered so is commissioning an independent investigation, on which we will report in due course.
“The board intends to take this opportunity not only to update our structure and processes to ensure that we are fully compliant with the UK Sport and Sport England Governance code, but also to review our cultural values and behaviour in the interests of a stronger federation as a whole.
“Both our funding bodies are aware of the situation. In the meantime we have asked Sarah Bunting, the BEF’s head of finance, to take over the role of accountable officer for the purpose of our funding. The board will be considering the process to put an interim CEO in place until Clare’s replacement is recruited.
“There is a clear priority for the board to work with the Members’ Council to deliver the governance changes required by UK Sport and Sport England by 31 October 2017. We remain confident that commitment remains high and we will be successful.
“I have every confidence in the abilities and professional skills of the BEF executive and staff team to continue their day-to-day work in the best interests of equestrianism. We are also fortunate to have a strong World Class Programme team in place, doing a great job for our athletes as they represent Great Britain.”
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Clare joined the BEF in June 2016 having previously worked at Royal London where she successfully led a high-profile rebrand. Prior to this, she held a number of global, board-level posts at ITV, Royal & Sun Alliance, Prudential and the AA.
When asked what she’d like to achieve in her role at the BEF in an interview in Horse & Hound (30 March, 2017), Clare said she wanted “to grow horsiness” and combat public perception that equestrian sport is expensive and elitist, but there has been growing discontent about her leadership of the federation in recent months.
A number of Horse & Hound columnists have spoken out about the decisions being made at the top, which have led to the loss of major sponsors, while funding has been cut, with youth teams bearing the brunt of the reductions resulting in the loss of key personnel.
In 1 June issue of H&H, Olympic showjumping champion Nick Skelton said: “There appears to be a growing trend for non-horsey people to run the sport and it’s a disaster. You can have all the credentials and qualifications in the world, but the bottom line is that those at the helm need to know horses inside out. You have to have that passion. It’s like asking me to run the Lawn Tennis Association — I wouldn’t know where to start.”
This was followed by top British showjumper Peter Charles (H&H 15 June issue) saying: “Clare Salmon’s decision to cut funding has meant the loss of youth chef d’equipes Matt Lanni and Alan Fazakerley. I believe that British Showjumping (BS) has had £70k-£80k in funding cut by the BEF. Interestingly, BS has to pay the BEF £70k each year just to be part of the national federation. You have to ask, what are we getting for that money? Wouldn’t we be better off taking everything in-house and being in charge of our own destiny?”
And in her most recent column (H&H 20 July issue), top dressage rider and trainer Pammy Hutton said: “The British Equestrian Federation publicity talks about “innovative and exciting plans going forward to Tokyo”. But if there was a vote on chief executive Clare Salmon’s leadership — or lack of, it’d likely be one of no confidence.”
For further analysis of the situation, see Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 27 July