The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity, which last year received over £20m in donated television fees, saying that it has serious concerns about how the charity is being run.
In November 2018, the Commission opened a regulatory compliance case to explore concerns raised about the charity’s relationship with the Professional Footballers’ Association trade union and the management of conflicts of interest. The regulator has now escalated it to a statutory inquiry, which is its most serious intervention.
The organisation was registered in 2013 as the charity arm of the Professional Footballers Association to support players during their careers and afterwards with moves into areas like coaching. It also runs a 24/7 helpline.
Data for the financial year ending 30 June 2018 puts its income at £26.4m and spending at £24.5m. The majority of its income came through donation of television fees, at more than £24.7m.
The accounts state that the charity does not have any employees and therefore no salaries or wages have been paid during the year. Nonetheless, the accounts list staff costs of £4m under their analysis of support costs.
During the past year, the Commission met with the trustees as well as other parties. The regulator said: “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 has made no findings to date.”
The charity has eight trustees, including the chief executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor. Taylor has been under pressure in recent years and is expected to stand down from the PFA once an independent review into the union's finances has been concluded, having held his role for over 35 years.
'Serious concerns have been raised about the way the Professional Footballers’ Association Charity is run'
The statutory inquiry will examine the charity’s relationship and transactions with other bodies and whether they are in the best interests of the charity, alongside whether the charity’s activities have been exclusively charitable and for the public benefit.
It will also look at 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 has been any unauthorised trustee benefit. Lastly, it will look at whether or not the trustees have complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities under charity law.
The Commission said it might extend the scope of the inquiry “if additional regulatory issues emerge”.
Stephen Grenfell, head of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the 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.”
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.”