Britain loses equestrian sport leader Will Connell to USEF

Will Connell
Will Connell

Leading British equestrian sport administrator Will Connell is jumping ship to take up the position of Director of Sport for the United States Equestrian Federation.

Connell, who is currently the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Performance Director, has been with the BEF for 11 years. He will leave his post after this year’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

In his new role with the US Equestrian Federation, Connell will be responsible for the administration of all aspects of sport programming across the eight international disciplines, nine national disciplines, and eleven breeds recognized by the USEF. In addition to serving as the Chef de Mission at the FEI World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, and Olympic Games, Connell will also be responsible for oversight of the USEF coaching programs.

A former Commanding Officer of The King’s Troop RHA, Connell was appointed to the position of Performance Director in 2003. In this role he took on the responsibility for the co-ordination and delivery of the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme which covers the disciplines of eventing, dressage, showjumping and para-equestrian dressage.

He was Team Leader for the equestrian sports at the Olympic Games in Athens, 2004; Beijing, 2008 and London 2012 and Chef de Mission at the 2006 and 2010 World Equestrian Games. In 2012 Connell was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list in recognition of his services to equestrian sport.

United States Equestrian Federation Chief Executive Officer Chris Welton said Connell’s appointment was the culmination of an extensive search.

“The addition of Will Connell to our team as Director of Sport should be seen as a clear indication of our intent to provide our athletes every possible opportunity to excel at all levels of our sport,” Welton said.

“Will’s accomplishments in building and sustaining championship caliber teams are without parallel. We are thrilled to have Will on board to lead our efforts to ensure that all of our athletes have the opportunity to perform and achieve to the best of their ability.”

Andrew Finding, Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation said Connell has been an outstanding Performance Director; “he has worked day and night for the cause.  We will miss him and wish him well in his new challenge.”

Connell said making the move was a hard decision after 11 years as performance director. “I have worked closely with many who have given their all to the World Class Programme and Equestrian Team GBR.  Being part of the journey over the last 11 years has been an honour and a privilege; London 2012 was of course the highlight but there have been many others in terms of what the Programme, the riders, the horses, the owners, the staff and all those who support them have achieved,” he said.

“I believe the Programme is in a very good shape and success in Rio 2016 for the GBR equestrian teams is well mapped out.  The support we enjoy from UK Sport, the BOA and BPA [British Olympic and Paralympic associations] is second to none and I will miss working with them.  I wish all involved with the Programme and Team GBR the very best for the future:  I am and always will be British but I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of me as I take up my new role as Director of Sport for the United States Equestrian Federation.

“My immediate focus and aim is to do all I can to help Equestrian Team GBR meet its UK Sport targets and deliver medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014.”

An exact date for Connell’s departure has not been set, but the USEF said Connell would start full-time in October.

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