Football Governance - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Further written evidence submitted by the Premier League

Response by the Fans' Fund to unacceptable comments by the then Chief Executive of Supporters Direct

Your Committee members may find it helpful to have a record of the events leading up to the FSIF/Fans Fund decision to withdraw funding from Supporters Direct in the light of unacceptable comments made by its (then) Chief Executive. You should note that his departure and replacement by the acting CEO Brian Burgess has removed the Fans Fund's concerns as to SD's leadership and the Premier League's interim funding has been restored to cover staff and office costs for June and July while consideration of SD's grant application resumes:

1.    The Premier League has been providing interim funding to SD since the last Government decided that it was inappropriate for DCMS money to fund non-participation sport projects and that the Football Foundation funding scope should be adjusted appropriately. They asked the Premier League to fund SD once their Foundation grant expired, which we agreed to consider (and have paid over £500k so far);

2.    The PL felt that grant-aiding supporter groups, like any of our other good cause programmes, belongs more comfortably with an arms-length body and so decided to create the Fans' Fund to carry out the process of considering applications. The Fans' Fund is accountable to the Football Stadium Improvement Fund (FSIF) and administered by staff at the Football Foundation;

3.    The Fans' Fund received a number of applications from fan groups and about three months ago agreed to recommend to FSIF that SD be awarded a significant sum;

4.    FSIF agreed the recommendation, subject to the normal grant criteria which include the requirement for an applicant to show us their accounts;

5.    SD did not make their accounts available to the FSIF until 10 June (coincidentally the day Dave Boyle resigned) and so had not received notification of the grant decision;

6.    Dave Boyle made his offensive comments on Twitter on 21 May;

7.    They were brought to my attention on 22 and 23 May by several people who follow him on Twitter;

8.    In my opinion these comments, vulgar in themselves, displayed a level of irresponsibility inappropriate for a person who was Chief Executive of a high-profile organisation. It was the irresponsibility rather than the vulgarity, unpleasant though it was, that was the issue in terms of deciding whether our funding would be properly administered by SD;

9.    I discussed my views with the other members of the Fans' Fund, the members of FSIF and individuals involved in grants awards in other areas of PL Good Cause work. They shared my concerns, and in passing, agreed with my view that we would not accept behaviour like this from employees of the Premier League or Football Foundation, nor from our voluntary sector or public sector partners;

10.  I shared the comments with DCMS, yourself and your Chairman, the Opposition CMS spokespeople and others who I felt had a public policy interest in the case;

11.  I wrote to the Chair of SD asking for her views;

12.  She replied that Mr Boyle had apologised, removed the remarks from Twitter, had been warned as to his future behaviour, and she hoped that we could end the matter there;

13.  I referred Dame Pauline's reply to the individuals previously consulted, saying in my view the response was inadequate. There was general agreement with my view.

14.  We agreed that Dame Pauline and her colleagues had every right to stand by their Chief Executive but that we had no obligation to continue funding an organisation whose Chief Executive we no longer had confidence in;

15.  The Chair of the Football Stadium Improvement Fund, Peter McCormick, wrote to Dame Pauline on 9 June to inform her that the FSIF had decided to rescind its pending offer in the light of the irresponsibility shown by the CEO and the weak disciplinary action taken by the Board. His letter made it clear that this decision was made on the basis of the unsuitability of the individual and not on any change in the policy of the PL or the FSIF/Fans'Fund to grant-aid supporter organisations or because we were not willing to support SD's core activities. The letter also made it clear that SD could resubmit their application should circumstances change and that the funds allocated to this area would not be channelled elsewhere;

16.  Mr Boyle resigned on 10 June;

17.  The SD Board met on 11 June and appointed Brian Burgess (a Board member) as acting CEO;

18.  Mr Burgess sought a meeting with me to discuss funding in the light of Mr Boyle's departure;

19.  Mr Burgess was unable to meet with me until 17 June as he was at a Conference in Barcelona;

20.  At the meeting Mr Burgess confirmed that they wished us to reconsider their existing application which I undertook to ensure. He undertook to look at the questions that arise from their accounts (received by me on 14 June) and asked me whether the Premier League would consider meeting their payroll costs in the short period while these questions are resolved. I agreed to recommend this to our Chief Executive and Director of Finance, and reply to Mr Burgess before 28 June at the latest.

21.  We received elements of the January-May management accounts for SD on 21 June. This enabled the Premier League to estimate the staff and office costs for SD's activities in England and Wales and an ex gratia payment for the appropriate amount to meet those costs for June and July has been approved and will reach SD before 30 June.

I hope that the above summary clarifies the situation, in the light of misleading comment in the press. Please circulate it to your Committee, and as I understand that several of them continue to be unaware of Mr Boyle's original comments, I have attached them again for them to make their own mind up as to their suitability.

The FSIF process of considering SD's application in the light of the recently received accounts will now continue, unaffected by the events of the last few weeks. It is not possible for me to indicate how long this may take as it depends on SD dealing with the questions related to their accounts, but Mr Burgess has already responded promptly to the points I raised on Friday so it seems unlikely that the process will be a lengthy one.

I hope this gives you sufficient information to answer your Committee members' questions, and I will of course keep you up-to-date with the remaining stages of the discussion related to the SD grant. Feel free to add this note to the evidence section of your website should you consider it helpful.

July 2011

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Prepared 29 July 2011