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British Cycling appoints new chair – and he’s immediately on the defensive

Jonathan Browning was chief executive of Volkswagen America at time of emissions scandal

British Cycling board has elected Jonathan Browning as its new chair after Bob Howden, who will remain as president, decided to step aside. Browning was immediately on the defensive however, as a result of his time as CEO of Volkswagen’s US operations.

Browning was first appointed to the British Cycling board as a non-executive director in March 2015. He is a former chairman of Vauxhall and managing director of Jaguar Cars, but Sky News reports he was also chief executive of Volkswagen in the US at a time when the firm was cheating in emission tests by making its cars appear far less polluting than they actually were.

Speaking to the press, Browning denied he had any involvement. “I joined in June 2010 after the engines that are part of the emissions scandal were developed and launched in the market. I left in December 2013 before any of the data emerged on those diesel engine issues.”

British Cycling is currently awaiting the publication of two reports: the independent review into allegations of sexism and bullying, and UK Anti-Doping’s investigation into the delivery of a medical package to Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky in 2011.

Asked whether he would be more vigilant and knowledgeable about British Cycling than he had been at VW, Browning replied: "The role of chairman is important in setting the tone of the organisation. We are making sure that we have the right governance in place. That is something that will continue to evolve and it is absolutely our intention that we have the highest standards of governance and the right level of transparency."

Bob Howden said his recent appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee had had “no influence whatsoever” on his decision to step aside.

“The appointment of an independent chair brings British Cycling more closely in line with the new Code for Sports Governance and is also an important step in work that has been going on for some time in updating the structures of the organisation to ensure we have the capacity to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.”

Browning – who is reported to be a lifelong cyclist, who raced as a schoolboy – said he was honoured to have been elected as the new chair of British Cycling.

“British Cycling has delivered tremendous success for the sport at every level over the past two decades, but there is clearly work to do to take the organisation to the next level.

“I look forward to working with the executive leadership team, including our new performance director Stephen Park, to do just that. Recruitment for a new chief executive is going well and we expect to make a further announcement in the next few weeks."

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