Football Foundation suspends social media activity citing election rules 

14 Nov 2019 News

The Football Foundation said yesterday that it is “suspending activity” on its social media accounts to comply with purdah rules during the general election campaigning period. 

During the period between Parliament being dissolved and a new government being formed, known as purdah, civil servants and arms-length government bodies must be careful to avoid politically contentious public statements. This means various pieces of government business get put on hold.

Cabinet Office guidance highlights that there will be additional scrutiny during the election on social media, but says that posting routine factual information is still permitted. 

Yesterday the Football Foundation announced on its Facebook and Twitter feeds: “We will be suspending activity from this account throughout the pre-general election period due to the purdah rules affecting organisations that receive government funding. 

“We will be able to start Tweeting again once the election is out of the way & a new government is formed.”

The tweet has now been deleted although the Foundation has not resumed social media activity.

Projects part-funded by government

The Football Foundation receives just under one third of its income from government sources, via Sport England, with the rest from the FA and Premier League, but all of its projects are part-funded by government.

Sport England told Civil Society News that it had not sent out specific guidance to grantees, but had highlighted the Cabinet Office guidance to some partners. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that organisations must “not push government content” during purdah and also highlighted the Cabinet Office guidance.

The Foundation told Civil Society News that this has been its position in previous election periods but was not able to confirm if it was the Cabinet Office guidance it is following and declined to comment further about its decision. 

Charities must comply with additional Charity Commission guidance, which emphasises the need for neutrality, and the Lobbying Act, which concerns campaigning spend. 

'Doesn't fit with our understanding of the rules'

NCVO has been encouraging charities to take part in relevant public discussions during the general election period.

Douglas Dowell, policy manager, said: “This doesn’t fit with our understanding of the rules governing the pre-election period and would hope this is a misunderstanding.

“Although charities need to follow charity and electoral law and guidance, and relevant clauses in contracts with government, we are not aware of any basis on which this guidance for civil servants could apply to charities in this way.”

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