British Eventing has announced that CEO Helen West, who has held the role for two years, will step down in June ‘due to personal circumstances, including the need to provide primary care for her father’. She took over leadership of the governing body in 2021, when the sport and BE both found themselves in murky waters due to the snowball effect of the pandemic and a financial hole created as a result of the failed and ongoing IT project, and has created a number of positive initiatives in her time in the post, including training and funding schemes and, memorably, the one-off ‘pop-up five-star’ at Bicton that same year.
“Helen, who will have been in post for two years when she stands back this summer, will be immensely missed,” says Mark Santorini, Chair of British Eventing. “She came to the role with a wealth of knowledge across all aspects of the sport. It is this that has seen her stabilise the sport from the extremely precarious position it was in to where it looks set to be profitable for the first time in eight years and where we are seeing membership growth for the first time in six years.
“This has been no mean feat especially when you consider that Helen joined knowing that it was never going to be easy. The sport was struggling financially as a result of a failed IT project and two seasons of interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The turnaround that we are today seeing in the sport is the direct result of the sheer hard work, commitment, vision and ability to drive change that Helen has delivered throughout her time at the helm. I speak not only on behalf of myself, but the entire Non-Executive Board, when I say that we hold Helen in the highest regard and are unable to thank her enough for navigating her way through the amount of necessary change that was required to move the sport forward.
“Under Helen’s direction we have seen a national training structure delivered, as a result of the generous backing from David Howden. We have seen the introduction of a BE 80 National Grassroots Championships at Bramham, the rollout of Grassroots Regional Championships in every region, a stats centre and leagues for all levels of competition, a £10k prize pot across the Grassroots Leagues and the addition of an exciting new Amateur Championships at Osberton at the end of the season which includes the addition of a CCI1*. Restructuring the membership offer and introducing new member incentives has also seen a membership growth across both competing members and horse registrations, a vastly increased level of commercial investment along with a much more efficient business delivery in terms of financial costs.
“In addition, Helen has been instrumental in the creation of the British Equestrian Support Trust (BEST) for which she also sits as a trustee. The creation of BEST saw British Eventing to be the first British based equestrian National Governing Body to have a charity created purely to help its members through difficult times resulting from an eventing accident or mental health issues. BEST is something that we should all not only feel particularly proud of but also reassured by. It has already helped a number of members on their road to recovery, the most notable of which was the assistance offered to Nicola Wilson after her terrible fall at Badminton last year.
“We know this has been an extremely hard decision for Helen and is one that we need to respect. I am hoping that Helen will continue to be involved with the sport and the association and we will now be commencing the recruitment process to identify a successor who can continue building from the solid position that Helen leaves the sport in when she finishes in June.”
Of her resignation, Helen West says: “To say this was a difficult decision would be an understatement. It is one that I have to make for personal reasons and I will always be available to British Eventing to assist where I can. I am incredibly proud of everything we have achieved over the past two years, and I have taken great pleasure seeing the sport evolve despite being forced to make difficult decisions at times.
“Change is always hard but has been crucial to the survival of the sport. I will always remain 100% committed to the sport but right now, it is imperative that I step back and spend some time with my father as his primary carer. I have been tremendously fortunate to work with some great colleagues at British Eventing and would like to extend huge gratitude for their support in working alongside me. I strongly believe that British Eventing has a bright future ahead of it and I look forward to watching it flourish under the direction of my successor when appointed.”
British Eventing will now begin the recruitment process to find Helen’s replacement, which will commence within the week. The role will be advertised on BE’s website.