British Cycling appoint Football Association's Julie Harrington as new CEO

Julie Harrington with Michel Platini at St George's Park in 2014

Julie Harrington with Michel Platini at St George's Park in 2014 (Image credit: Getty Images)

British Cycling have appointed a new chief executive officer, with Julie Harrington of the Football Association announced as Ian Drake's successor on Monday.

Drake announced that he would step down last October at a time when the federation found itself steeped in scandal, subject to an independent review into its culture after allegations of sexism, and under investigation from UKAD over the infamous 'jiffy bag' controversy. After originally planning to leave his post in April, Drake ended up doing so at the end of January.

Harrington, who as group operations director for the FA is responsible for running Wembley Stadium, will begin at British Cycling in May. Her appointment is the latest in a significant re-shuffle after Jonathan Browning came in last month to take over from Bob Howden as Chair, and Stephen Park became the new performance director after Shane Sutton resigned in the sexism scandal.

"I am thrilled to be asked to lead British Cycling as it embarks on a new chapter in its history," said Harrington, who has almost 15 years' experience in sports leadership roles.

"This is the right time to be joining one of this country's leading governing bodies. British Cycling already has a fantastic track record of using elite success to inspire millions of people to get active by getting on their bikes and is now setting its sights on new ambitions and a new way of working."

Harrington faces a tough task as British Cycling aims to restore its credibility, which was described last week as being "in tatters" by Damian Collins MP, head of the parliamentary committee that is currently trying to get the bottom of allegations of wrongdoing at British Cycling and Team Sky.

Collins' comments came after last week's hearing exposed a damning picture of medical practices at the two set-ups, concerning in particular doctor Richard Freeman, who worked for both. Freeman is the man at the centre of the 'jiffy bag' storm as the recipient of the mystery package – which was claimed to be Fluimucil – that was couriered from the UK to the Team Sky bus in France at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011 by BC employee Simon Cope.

Freeman pulled out of last week's parliamentary hearing with a day’s notice, but UKAD’s Nicole Sapstead revealed that he had failed to keep adequate medical records in line with Team Sky protocol, while BC physio Phil Burt, who put together the package from the medical store at the Manchester velodrome, said he can't remember what he put in the package, with no documentary evidence for what was going in and out of the store.

More damning details have emerged since the hearing, with Freeman having ordered vast quantities of triamcinolone – the corticosteroid used under TUE by Bradley Wiggins – and used some of it to treat staff members. It was also reported in the Sunday Times that a batch of testosterone patches was delivered to BC's HQ in 2011, though former head of medicine Steve Peters claimed the delivery was made in error and was sent straight back.

British Cycling last week unveiled a 39-point plan to reform its culture and operations as the independent review, triggered after allegations of sexism from track sprinter Jess Varnish and the subsequent resignation of performance director Shane Sutton, nears its conclusion. UK Sport's Liz Nicholl warned that BC could see its funding withdrawn unless demonstrable progress is made, with improvements in medical record keeping understood to be part of that threat.

Harrington's background

Harrington has almost 15 years worth of experience in sports leadership roles, and is currently the group operations director for the FA, responsible for Wembley and St George's Park – the national teams' training base. She has been with the FA since 2011, having joined to work exclusively on the finalisation of the £100m St George's Park development.

Before that she spent nine years at operations director of the Northern Racing Group, and she remains a non-executive director of the British Horseracing Authority. She has also worked in marketing roles for British Airways, Whitbread, Carlsberg Tetley, and Allied Domecq.

"In appointing Julie, I am delighted that we have found someone with exactly the right mix of skills to lead British Cycling as we embark on a period of significant change," said Jonathan Browning.

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