Association sport

The professional footballers’ charity received an official warning from the Charity Commission for ‘mismanagement’

The professional footballers’ charity received an official warning from the Charity Commission for “mismanagement” between 2013 and 2019, the BBC has learned.

The regulator has been investigating the organization supporting past and present players for several years.

It was turned into a statutory inquiry in 2020 into “serious concerns” about the way the body was run.

The Commission has now informed the charity that it is taking action due to ‘various failures…over an extended period’.

They include a “failure to ensure his assets were used in the most appropriate manner by failing to review his longstanding relationship with a syndicate and his payments to it” and a “failure to manage and control appropriately £1.9 million of charitable funds that had been transferred out of the charity’s accounts.”

He acknowledged that the charity – now known as the Players Foundation – had “taken steps to address the failings”.

But he said he had considered whether further regulatory action was needed in relation to directors and “would take appropriate action in this regard”.

He also warned that “failure to address mismanagement could lead to further regulatory action”.

In a statement, the Players Foundation said: “No other charity has been subjected to such scrutiny. Every aspect of our work has been scrutinized. It has been difficult for all people involved, but we welcome the results and are proud of the work we have done over the past nine years.

“We have mixed emotions. We are happy that the association can finally move on, but also frustrated that it has weighed on us for so long.”

In a statement, the Charity Commission said: “Our investigation into The Players Foundation (formerly the PFA Charity) is ongoing and as such cannot comment further at this time.”

In documents seen by the BBC, the Commission tells the charity that the warning is due to:

  • “the failure to ensure that its assets were used in the most appropriate manner by failing to review its long-standing relationship with a syndicate and its payments to it.”
  • “failure to properly manage and control £1.9 million of charitable funds which had been transferred out of the charity’s accounts.”
  • “failure to protect the best interests of the charity by failing to formalize arrangements regarding occupation of the charity’s properties by non-charitable entities, including failure to charge rent or formalize contracts Failure to charge rent meant the charity was deprived of over £627,000 of revenue which could otherwise have been applied to activities which furthered its aims.”

The investigation looked at how the charity was run by its directors.

In November 2018, it emerged that the PFA charity accounts included £4m ‘staff costs’.

But no further details were given of how this sum was distributed, and elsewhere in the accounts it is stated that “no salaries or wages were paid during the year”.

“The charity commission started by making allegations which we could not understand and said they had serious concerns,” the Players Foundation told the BBC.

“Ultimately, these concerns boil down to three areas, and they recognize that we have corrected everything we needed from 2019. The charity has not lost a penny here and no beneficiary has lost in any way, shape or form.

“We have spent over £67m to help past and present players who need it most. We will continue to do this to the best of our abilities. Our funding structure has changed but we believe that by reviewing expenses and by maximizing the return on our investments, we can ensure that we will be there for those who need us most.”

A PFA spokesperson added: “The Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union, is now an entirely separate organization from the Players’ Foundation – formerly known as the PFA Charity.

“The decision to legally separate the union and what was previously the PFA Charity was part of a series of major organizational changes initiated over two years ago.

“This separation is designed to provide greater organizational clarity in the future and to ensure that organizations operate within compliance with all relevant legal and administrative guidelines.”

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