The English footballers’ trade union called to account

By Tony Attwood


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The Charity Commission – the UK organisation which regulates charities and makes sure that they abide by the law, has begun enquiries examining the way Professional Footballers’ Association Charity is managed.   This is a “statutory inquiry” – the most serious type of intervention into the workings of a charity that there is.

The declared purpose of the PFAC is to advance the health and education of its members of the PFA as well as support them during periods of hardship.

The case began over a year ago and is centred on the issue of the relationship between the trade union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, and the charity that it appears to control 100%.  A statement said that after extensive investigations, “the Commission continues to have serious concerns which have led to the opening of this inquiry.”

Among other things the inquiry is looking at whether the charity’s activities have been exclusively charitable and for the public benefit and the issue of conflicts of interest between the work of the charity and the work of the trade union.

What is interesting is that it seems that most of the work of the PFA is run as a charity, which gets the bulk of its cash (£24.75m a year according to its accounts) from the Premier League.

Its chief executive, Gordon Taylor, is well-known for having the highest salary of any trade union official in Britain, £2.02m in 2017-18.  This is four times as much as the grants to players made by the charity.

In short, it appears (from reports I have read, and of course I make no allegation based on my own investigations) a huge chunk of the income of the charity goes to pay the chief executive.

In 2013 the Independent ran the story that Gordon Taylor had gambling debts of over £100,000 and a serious gambling habit. The following month the PFA denied this was true.  The Guardian reported that “the PFA’s chief executive was accused of placing more than £4m on 2,000 bets.”

But this was not the first controversy.  In 2008 Taylor said the union would support Marlon King, the Wigan player, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually assaulting a 20-year-old student in December 2008 and causing actual bodily harm after Taylor punched her in the face in a bar.

10 years before that when Rachel Anderson was a fifa licensed football agent Taylor arranged that she should not be allowed into the PFA’s annual awards dinner because it was a private men-only event.  Anderson took the PFA to court, and of course won.  It was a flagrant and obvious breach of the law – excused by an attitude of “that doesn’t apply to us”.

This time however the Charity Commission appears to be ready to investigate the union from top to bottom after a review started last year under the offices of the Sports Resolutions organisation, appears to have made no progress.

Paul Elliott has now resigned as a trustee of the PFA because he has an individual voluntary arrangement with those to whom he owes money, and is this banned from being a trustee of a charity unless specifically agreed by the Charity Commission to hold such a post.  That has never happened – but the PFA appointed him anyway.

Elliott is currently the chair of the Football Association’s inclusion advisory board, which advises on anti-discrimination and diversity practices within the FA.

Recently a number of high profile ex-players circulated a message which read, “You may have seen that Ben Purkiss (PFA chairman) has called for an independent review of the PFA. We are backing his call and would like to also call for a fair and democratic election of a new PFA chief executive. Throughout our careers we have never had a vote and this has to change. The PFA needs to be open and accessible to all. Every player should know when and how to vote, and the PFA must be run by people willing to be open, transparent and democratic. We call for Gordon Taylor to step down and allow the PFA to modernise and evolve.”

The PFA argued that Purkiss could not be chair himself as he was a non-contract player and the case became an argument over the technical meaning of the rules.

In November 2018 Taylor agreed to an independent review of the PFA following much criticism of a lack of support by the PFA for retired players.  This in turn followed a report the previous month showing that a record number of footballers were seeking mental health support.

Looking from the outside it appears that the PFA has constantly blocked change as far as it could – from the issue of allowing women into its AGM to changing its chair.  This time around might be different given that the Charity Commission has the power.

But we must also remember that when the FA was found not to be abiding by the rules in handing out money raised in the name of the Charity Shield, the FA simply re-named the competition the Community Shield and so by-passed the rules.  Letters from Untold Arsenal to the FA asking for a breakdown of how the money raised by the Community Shield annual match has been spent, have gone unanswered.


7 Replies to “The English footballers’ trade union called to account”

  1. Seeing articles like this reminds me that I am totally correct in thinking that a lot of organisations in this country appear to be run by spivs or charlatans who are only involved for their own enrichment.

  2. It isn’t limited to England. The Internet Society is in the process of selling the .org domain to themselves (a group of former or current executives and others) which involves it becoming for-profit and valuating the new “company” at $1 billion USD. All .org internet domains will become more expensive as a result, and some other likely affects. People are trying to complain and stop it, but who knows if they will be successful.


    I just hope that the charity commission doesn’t find some sleezeball accountant to look at the books, who lies to the commission in exchange for kickbacks from this “football charity”.

  3. I remember reading an article where it was stated that the recepients of charities only received a very miniscule portion of the donated sum . While the CEO and the administration costs received most of the funding .

    While it may be difficult to implement , it still would be great if the middlemen are done away with , and funds are given directly to those who most deserve them.

    A good system of checks and balances should be in place.

  4. When reading this I thought it was about a Belgium thing….It is disgusting at times to see how the rats come out if they think there is any personal gain for them to be made with money that should be given to those who need it…

  5. As a senior charity manager for over 30 years I’d have to emphasise how extremely rare it is for the Charity Commission to undertake a statutory inquiry into the operation of a charity. You really would have to be (or appear to be) so far out of line for them to even consider it.

    The other thing I would note is that as a charity that annually benchmarks all our staff salaries against hundred’s of other charities based on a huge range of factors (the information is readily available), there are a number of findings. Firstly, CEO’s in our sector are paid around a third to a half of that of a private sector CEO running a similar size organisation (based on turnover and staff) so contrary to some popular opinion not highly paid at all. (No complaints, most of the time I love my job and believe in the cause.)

    Taking this one step further there is also information which shows the differential between highest and lowest paid employees in each of the sectors. Now, I completely accept it’s going to be different between private, public and charity sectors because obviously average organisation size plays a major factor. However, there’s another key point which I’ll come to.

    In a FTSE 100 company the CEO earns, on average, 262 times more than the lowest paid worker. In the public sector it is 15 to 1 and in the charity sector 5 to 1. So assuming the PFA has an office cleaner on minimum wage, they will be paid about £21k p.a. On £2.02m (add a few years of inflationary increases) that puts the PFA CEO on around 100 times more than the lowest paid. A tad higher than the charity sector average of 5 times more I’d say! And I have to pay for my tickets to football matches too!!

    But hang on, this is England. Corruption doesn’t happen here so I can’t see what point there is in investigating them. You’ll be telling me next that some teams get more cards for fewer fouls than others and that referees get to officiate the same team more than twice a season. Well if anything like that were to happen I’m sure a whole host of investigative journalists would be down on it lie a ton of bricks. Nothing to see here………..

  6. OT: Of Captains and Diving

    In the medja, are reports that Ashley Diver is no longer captain of ManUre. Apparently Maguire now has that role. Is Maguire going to start taking diving lessons? So as to be a better captain, of course? Maybe Southgate will run a camp, since he has Harry and Dele Diver, and so on available for inspiration. And of course, Ashley now has fewer responsibilities so perhaps he is going to advance the state of the art in English diving.

  7. The true example of charity can be got from the Lions & Rotarians who give all donations to the less fortunate and pay for all administration from their own pockets. Like all organisations there has to be some benefit to members and these organisations are different in that the benefit is the facility to network among fellow members worldwide.

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