The Jockey Club has announced former BT Sport and Sky executive Delia Bushell as its new group chief executive.
In taking the position Bushell will become one of the most powerful people in British horse racing. The Jockey Club is the sport’s largest commercial group in the UK and runs the Cheltenham Festival, the Randox Health Grand National and the Investec Derby Festival.
Bushell has extensive media, business management and technology experience. Her CV includes a three-year stint as managing director of BT Group’s £1bn TV and Sport division where she oversaw the acquisition of premium sports rights, including the English Premier League, Uefa Champions League, Premiership Rugby and the Ashes.
Before this, she spent 14 years across a number of roles at Sky. She was chief commercial officer for Sky Italia’s €2.7bn consumer business, leading marketing, customer management and digital development. Prior to this, she was director of broadband & telephony for Sky UK, taking Sky’s Broadband service from launch to three million customers, and was managing director for Sky Ireland. Most recently Delia was UK chief executive and European COO at Afiniti, a US tech company that is a leader in artificial intelligence.
Bushell is also a non-executive director of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Commonwealth Games England and is on the Advisory Board of The Telegraph Media Group.
She is likely to be faced with a decline in media rights revenues for horse racing owing to government legislation limiting the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals. In July, bookmaker William Hill announced plans to close around 700 betting shops in the UK before the end of the year blaming a significant fall in gaming machine revenues because of the legislation.
Horse racing currently earns healthy revenues selling bet-to-view media rights to individual high-street bookmakers based on the number of stores they run. The more shops close, the smaller the number of bet-to-view deals the sport will be able to sign.
However other parts of the Jockey Club’s business are thriving. Huge numbers attend Jockey Club races, making them some of the most popular sports events in the UK sporting calendar.
SportBusiness understands Bushell’s remit will be to continue to develop the Jockey Club as a consumer lifestyle brand and build audiences and new revenue streams to offset declines in media revenues.
Bushell said: “The years to come will be critical for the sport, as we embrace the opportunities and challenges of innovating for fans and racegoers, appealing to new and more diverse audiences, broadening revenue streams, and driving inward investment.”
Bushell will join the organisation in early September and, following a handover period, take over from outgoing chief executive Simon Bazalgette when he stands down in October. Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of The Jockey Club, welcomed Bushell while thanking Bazalgette for his achievements:
“His leadership helped us to grow commercial revenues significantly, enabling us to return record sums back to British Racing. We have improved our facilities considerably, none more so than our flagship £45 million development at Cheltenham. His vision was pivotal to a range of achievements by the industry, including the growth of media rights value, our terrestrial broadcast relationship with ITV, Levy Reform and the creation of QIPCO British Champions Day.”