Jonathan Browning replaces Bob Howden as British Cycling chairman

The former Jaguar and Volkswagen boss will seek to restore British Cycling's reputation after a bruising few months, while Howden will continue as president

Matt Slater
Thursday 09 February 2017 16:30
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Jonathan Browning has been appointed as the new chairman of British Cycling
Jonathan Browning has been appointed as the new chairman of British Cycling

British Cycling's plan to move forward after a period of intense scrutiny took further shape on Thursday with the announcement of former Jaguar and Volkswagen boss Jonathan Browning as its new chairman.

Browning, 57, was added to the governing body's board two years ago as a non-executive director and now becomes its first independent leader, replacing Bob Howden, who will continue as president.

In a conference call with reporters, both men described the decision to split the roles as a natural consequence of British Cycling's growth in recent years and a response to the government's call for more modern leadership structures at sports governing bodies.

"British Cycling, in business terms, is making the transition from being a start-up to become a more involved organisation with the ambition of being a world-class governing body," said Browning, who has 30 years of experience in senior roles in the car industry.

Howden, who has been a voluntary board member for 13 years as well as being a prominent figure in Yorkshire cycling and running his own construction business, said the last year has proved the job of leading British Cycling is simply too big for one person.

Given the huge growth in British Cycling's membership, revenues and profile, this is undoubtedly true but it is also the case Howden's position as chairman has looked untenable ever since an uncomfortable performance before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in December.

Bob Howden (L) will continue as president of British Cycling

Put in an unenviable position, he struggled to answer questions from MPs on what British Cycling knew about the contents of a package delivered from its Manchester headquarters to Team Sky's doctor at a race in France in 2011.

When asked if this bruising encounter influenced his decision to step aside, Howden said: "It had no influence whatsoever. As anybody who knows me will tell you, I'm as resilient as they come and sometimes you just have to take things on the chin."

Be that as it may, that package is still being investigated by UK Anti-Doping, and British Cycling is also the subject of an independent review into allegations of bullying, discrimination and sexism within its Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Taking Howden out of the firing line follows chief executive Ian Drake's decision to leave his post three months early, with British Cycling's technical director Shane Sutton being an even earlier casualty of the crisis when he quit in April, less than four months before the start of what turned out to be another dominant British display at the Olympics and Paralympics.

Prepared by a five-person panel led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps, the independent review's report was scheduled for publication next week - already three months later than first planned - but its contents have provoked considerable alarm within British Cycling and UK Sport, the elite funding agency that co-commissioned and co-funded it.

The Independent understands there are at least two drafts of the report in circulation, with significant differences of opinion on the scope of the review, how much should be redacted to protect witnesses and its perceived failure to acknowledge the high-pressure nature of elite sport.

Browning confirmed the governing body's board has now met to discuss the independent review's report three times and it is understood the boards of both British Cycling and UK Sport spoke on Wednesday about how best to proceed. Phelps is currently in Japan on British Rowing business so there is little chance of much progress until next week.

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