Regulator kicks off inquiry into governance at football charity

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity (PFAC) following concerns about governance and trustee conflicts of interest

A statutory inquiry is the Commission’s most serious intervention and follows a regulatory compliance case, which opened in November 2018, and examined concerns about the charity’s relationship with the Professional Footballers’ Association trade union and trustees’ management of conflicts of interest.

The PFAC’s aim is to advance the health and education of football and support trainee footballers and retired professional players during periods of hardship.

During the past year, the Commission met with the eight trustees of the charity as well as other parties. The Commission obtained and assessed information from the charity, union and others.

Despite extensive engagement, the Commission continues to have serious concerns which have led to the opening of this inquiry.

The inquiry will examine the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees, examining how conflicts of interest have been dealt with and managed, and whether there have been any unauthorised trustee benefits. It will also look at whether activities have been exclusively charitable and for the public benefit.

The charity has eight trustees made up of former players and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) members, including Gordon Taylor OBE, who is also PFA chief executive, and Darren Wilson, Brendon Batson OBE, Garth Crooks OBE, Gareth Griffiths, Simon Morgan, Chris Powell, and David Weir.

It does not have any employees and no salaries or wages were paid during the year. The accounts details a number of outstanding loans to the charity, including £116,156 from PFA Enterprises Ltd, where some of the trustees are directors, and £282,000 due from the PFA General Fund, where trustees are senior officers. Another trustee is a director of the charity’s investment broker, ProSport Wealth Management.

The charity received £24.75m in donations and legacies in 2017-18, primarily from television fees, although this was down £2m year on year, according to the annual accounts for year end 30 June 2018, with £17.4m distributed as grants. The accounts show that £23.44m was spent on charitable activities and related staff costs were £4.04m. Two thirds of grants were made to institutions, including £3.5m to the Football League Community Fund and £3m to the Football League Youth Development and

Over the year, it spent £565,261 on around 400 benevolent grants to beneficiaries and their dependents, and 1,440 educational and vocational grants. It also funded access for nearly 900 people to use the Professional Football Association’s Advisory Services, which runs counselling services for issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction, as well as funding stays at residential addiction centres.

In a statement the PFA said: ‘The Charity Commission opened a regulatory compliance case into the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity in November 2018.

‘The Trustees have continued to co-operate fully, openly and transparently with the charity Commission and will continue to do so throughout this process.

‘The Professional Footballers’ Association Charity Trustees are all committed to adopting the highest possible standards in administering, governing and the management of the charity and will continue to work with the Charity Commission.’

The Commission said it ‘may extend the scope of the inquiry if additional regulatory issues emerge’.

Stephen Grenfell, head of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: ‘The public rightly expect charities to operate to the highest standards – across all they do. Serious concerns have been raised about the way the Professional Footballers’ Association charity is run. We will now examine what has happened at the charity through a full statutory inquiry and ensure, where necessary, action is taken.’

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