PA Sport

Jonathan Browning to quit as chairman as British Cycling eyes brighter future

Jonathan Browning to quit as chairman as British Cycling eyes brighter future
By PA Sport

08/11/2017 at 22:05Updated 08/11/2017 at 22:14

Jonathan Browning will step down as chairman of British Cycling next month after the national governing body's key public funding partners made it clear it was time for fresh leadership.

Jonathan Browning will step down as chairman of British Cycling next month after the national governing body's key public funding partners made it clear it was time for fresh leadership.

The 58-year-old former Volkswagen boss took over as chairman in February as British Cycling was reeling under the twin crises of claims about bullying and discrimination within the Great Britain team and a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in the medical department.

Having joined the board as a non-executive director in 2015, Browning was viewed as the only candidate who could drive through the cultural changes and governance reforms demanded by funding agencies Sport England and UK Sport, while also providing continuity.

In that regard, Browning has been a success, with British Cycling now a very changed place from early 2016 when Jess Varnish first made her complaint about former head coach Shane Sutton.

But as a member of the board that presided over the GB setup at the time of Varnish's complaint, Browning was always vulnerable to criticism, particularly when that board mishandled its initial response to Varnish's complaint.

It was then further damaged by the revelations that led to the ongoing UKAD inquiry later in 2016.

In fact, Sport England chairman Nick Bitel is understood to have threatened to withhold British Cycling's grassroots funding if significant changes were not made at board level earlier this year.

As part of the wider reforms across British sport, Browning was always going to have to reapply to stand as independent chairman - a voluntary position - and had originally intended to do so.

But at a meeting of the board in Manchester on Wednesday, he told his colleagues he is standing down as chairman on December 1 but remaining as a non-executive director until the end of his three-year term in March, when he will decide if he wants to seek a second term.

Speaking to reporters, Browning said he has a "passion for seeing things through" and "remains committed to helping British Cycling at this critical juncture".

He explained that Sport England and UK Sport had agreed he was an "eligible candidate" for the post and he received "good feedback" as he took "soundings" from people inside and outside the sport.

He said: "However, as I've gone through the process, it's become clearer to me that British Cycling would benefit from an all new leadership team... particularly as it reshapes its relationships with its public funding partners."

When asked if that means Sport England and UK Sport refused to back him, Browning said it was "a conversation that evolved".

Looking back at his nine months in charge, Browning pointed to the arrival of new chief executive Julie Harrington, new performance director Stephen Park and new commercial and HR directors as significant steps.

He also said the 39-point action plan he announced to remedy the "culture of fear" issues raised by an independent investigation into Varnish's claims was nearly complete, as are the financial audit and medical review he instigated, which includes the new post of head of medical services.

Furthermore, Browning said he has apologised to Varnish and everybody else who needed an apology on behalf of British Cycling, and explained it was now time to move forward.

In a statement, Harrington thanked Browning for his "strong support and great advice" and praised "the rapid changes" made during his tenure.

The search for his replacement is already under way and an announcement is expected in the coming weeks.

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