Exclusive: Premier League denies tax benefit over £110m donations to PFA’s charity account

Questions have been raised over Premier League donations of almost £110 million to the Professional Footballers’ Association’s charity while it and the Football League benefited from PFA youth development grants which totalled £24m.

The funding arrangement, which relates to the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, was altered during the most recent accounting period that also coincides with the Charity Commission’s launch of a full statutory inquiry into the PFA.

And the logic of millions of pounds flowing into the PFA Charity from the Premier League and then back out again across the professional game is now being questioned. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19 seasons the Premier League paid almost £109.5 million in charitable donations to the PFA following agreements that were linked to the league’s vast broadcast deals.

Listed among the PFA’s grants in the same time period were annual payments on youth development, which began at £3m to the Football League (EFL) in 2014-15 and later rose to £6m across both the Premier League and EFL.

“The funder of the charity is also getting donations from the charity – there is a risk of conflict there,” said Joshua Winfield, a barrister at Radcliffe Chambers and an expert in charity law. “It doesn’t look right where there is money going in both directions. “One’s first thought is: ‘Why didn’t the Premier League use the money they were giving to the charity for the purpose that the charity was paying them the money for?’ 

“Donations to charity are normally tax-efficient for the donor, so one would expect the Premier League to have got a tax benefit from their gifts to the charity. The money paid out by the charity must be used by the Premier League for charitable purposes consistent with the charity’s objects. If one were advising the charity, one would want to be sure that this was the case and that the donation did not come with strings attached.”

The Premier League is adamant that there has been no tax benefit from the arrangement and is comfortable with how the money was paid. The current PFA accounts relate to the first year of the Premier League’s new television deal and, as far as the league is concerned, it is understood that it has simply paid the money into the account requested by the PFA.

The Charity Commission would not comment on an investigation into the PFA which began in Nov 2018 and escalated into a statutory inquiry last year. The inquiry has included examining the charity’s relationship and transactions with other bodies and whether they are in the best interests of the charity, and whether the charity’s activities have been exclusively charitable and for the public benefit.

The latest accounts contain huge changes in the PFA’s financial management since June 2019, notably how its vast income from the professional game’s television deals is now divided between the trade union account, the accident fund and the charity. That has meant charitable income to the PFA listed as ‘TV income’ – largely from the Premier League – has been slashed from £26.99m in 2018-19 to £11.27m in 2019-20.

However, ‘TV rights’ of £12.75m were also paid into the PFA’s general fund and a further £3.44m of ‘television fees’ went into the accident fund. The EFL also pays the PFA around £2m each year from its broadcast income and is understood still to be receiving youth development funding via the union. With its dramatically increased income, staff salaries were also fully covered by the trade union last year and there was no recharge to the charity.

“The fact that apparently most of the staff costs of the PFA were recharged to the charity in 2019 and they are now treated as a donation by the PFA to the charity seems significant,” said Winfield. “I would be very surprised if the Charity Commission were happy with charity money paying PFA salaries, except in respect of services directly relating to the charity’s activities.”

The PFA said that changes in its financial arrangements reflected an ongoing organisational overhaul. This has followed recommendations from an independent review by Sport Resolutions. “The PFA and The PFA Charity are in the process of transitional changes,” said a spokesperson. “Our accounts reflect these changes, as we reappraise organisationally what is best for both the beneficiaries of the charity and members of the PFA.

“It is important to note all beneficiaries and members eligible for assistance before we took these steps can still access the same levels of support provided by both the charity and the union.”

The PFA did not respond to other specific questions on its finances, including a loan of more than £100,000 that was made from the PFA Charity to PFA Enterprises to assist with the purchase of a property and how much it was paying in annual affiliation fees to the Professional Players’ Federation. As previously revealed by The Telegraph, the PPF’s chairman, Brendon Batson, is a PFA Charity trustee and the chief executive is Taylor’s son Simon. Batson and Simon Taylor are paid an  annual consultancy fee by the PPF which, in the latest accounts, was respectively £20,160 and £59,000.

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