Professional Footballers' Association charity handed official warning by Charity Commission over 'mismanagement'

The Professional Footballers’ Association charity has been handed an official warning by the Charity Commission over “mismanagement” between 2013 and 2019, the BBC has learned.

The regulator has been investigating the organisation, which supports past and present players, for several years.

It was escalated into a statutory inquiry in 2020 over “serious concerns” about the way the body was managed.

The Commission has now informed the charity it is taking the action because of “various failings…over a prolonged period of time.”

They include a “failure to ensure its assets were being used in the most appropriate way by failing to review its longstanding relationship with, and payments to, a trade union” and a “failure to appropriately manage and control £1.9m of charitable funds that had been transferred out of the Charity’s accounts.”

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

But it said that it has considered whether further regulatory action is necessary in relation to any trustees, and “will take appropriate steps in that regard”.

It also warned that “failure to remedy the mismanagement may lead to further regulatory action being taken.”

In a statement, the Players Foundation said: “No other charity has faced such scrutiny. Every aspect of our work has been under the magnifying glass. It has been hard for all involved but we welcome the findings and are proud of the work we have done over the last nine years.

“We have mixed emotions. We are pleased that the charity can finally move on, but also frustrated that this has been hanging us over us all for so long.”

In a statement, the Charity Commission said: “Our inquiry into the Players Foundation (formerly the PFA) 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:

  • “failure to ensure its assets were being used in the most appropriate way by failing to review its longstanding relationship with, and payments to, a trade union.”
  • “failure to appropriately manage and control £1.9m of charitable funds that had been transferred out of the Charity’s accounts.”
  • “failure to protect the best interests of the Charity by failing to formalise arrangements regarding occupation of the Charity’s properties by non-charitable entities, including failure to charge rent or formalise lease agreements. The failure to charge rent meant that the Charity was deprived of over £627,000 of income that could otherwise have been applied to activities which furthered its purposes.”

The investigation had looked at the way the charity was managed by its trustees.

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

But there was no further detail given about how that sum was broken down, and elsewhere in the accounts it stated that “no salaries or wages have been paid during the year”.

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

“When it comes down to it, those concerns have boiled down to three areas, and they acknowledge we have corrected everything we needed to from 2019. The charity has not lost a penny here and no beneficiary has lost out in any way, shape or form.

“We have spent over £67m helping players past and present who need it most. We will continue to do so to the best of our ability. Our funding structure has changed, but we believe by reviewing expenditure and maximising the return on our investments we can make sure 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 organisation from the Players Foundation – formerly known as the PFA Charity.

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

“This separation is designed to provide far greater organisational clarity moving forward and to ensure that the organisations work within all relevant legal and administrative guidelines.”

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