Kick It Out is being investigated by the Charity Commission over concerns surrounding its handling of a serious incident at a staff training day last summer.
Following revelations by Sportsmail that staff members of the anti-discrimination charity were unhappy with the way the incident was handled by the charity, the Commission announced that it has opened a ‘regulatory compliance case’.
The charity regulator acknowledged that the public ‘rightly expect charities to be safe places where people are free from harm’.
Lord Ouseley, who is stepping down at the end of the season, will be in the spotlight as the ultimate responsibility for reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission lies with the trustees and he is chair of the trustees.
Kick It Out are facing questions about their handling of a serious staff welfare issue last year
According to Charity Commission regulations the responsibility for reporting serious incidents at charities lies first and foremost with the trustees, and the Commission demands ‘prompt, full and frank disclosure’.
At football’s anti-discrimination campaign the trustees are made up of representatives from the Football Association, the Premier League, the EFL and the PFA, the bodies which fund football’s anti-discrimination campaign.
But what remains unclear was when the trustees were informed of an incident that allegedly occurred on a staff training day in 2017, and if and when the Charity Commission were then informed.
Sportsmail has asked Kick It Out for a response.
A spokesperson at the Charity Commission said: ‘The public rightly expect charities to be safe places where people are free from harm.
‘We have been made aware of concerns about the charity Kick It Out. We have opened a regulatory compliance case to assess these concerns.’
As Sportsmail revealed earlier this week, Kick It Out is facing a number of bullying allegations that have been made to this newspaper by former staff.
One former senior staff member was threatened with legal action after complaining about ‘bullying’ at the hands of the management team at Kick It Out after leaving the organisation earlier this year.
The former staff member has told Sportsmail they were essentially ‘forced to resign’ amid threats of disciplinary action.
But the incident at a staff training day did, according to former staff, raise serious concerns about governance at Kick It Out, and whether the organisation had the right structures in place to deal with a serious staff welfare issue involving a member of their staff.
Former staff have said they were ‘general grievances’ about how the situation was handled, particularly when senior management staff allegedly responded to the incident by introducing an ‘alcohol ban’ at future events and staff training days.
‘It felt like alcohol was being blamed for what happened,’ said one former staff member. ‘It was suggested it be enforced first verbally and then at a staff team meeting. Staff were not happy.’
It is unclear whether Kick It Out trustees were informed of the incident from summer 2017
Former staff have blamed the alleged incident on the absence of a proper HR department for the 17-strong staff.
According to their accounts Kick It Out has close to £700,000 in its coffers but the staff they list on their website do not seem to have specific HR responsibilities beyond the chief executive, Roisin Wood.
As one former staff member said, this is slightly ‘ironic’ when Kick It Out perform an important role in advising football clubs in such matters.
‘Kick It Out works with Premier League and EFL clubs on their equality practices and at times they will work with their HR departments around policies and how they can implement stuff,’ said a former staff member.
‘For example the Premier League has its equality standard and the EFL has its code of practice, which involves some HR parts.
‘Kick It Out is there is there to give advice on how clubs should be run, so they are fully inclusive. And part of that is making sure their HR departments are doing the right things.
‘So it’s a bit ironic that KIO doesn’t have an HR person or department that is equipped to deal with these sort of issues.
‘I was aware of general grievances amongst staff about how it had been handled after the incident at the training day.
‘From my point of view, I felt like something like that could happen because there weren’t any proper procedures or policies in place. I feared an incident like that could expose such issues and unfortunately it did.’
When such incidents occur the Charity Commission guidance is very clear. Easily accessible on line, it states:
‘The Charity Commission requires charities to report serious incidents. If a serious incident takes place within your charity, it is important that there is prompt, full and frank disclosure to the Commission.
‘You need to report what happened and, importantly, let the Commission know how you are dealing with it, even if you have also reported it to the police, donors or another regulator.’
Under a section explaining what a serious incident is, it says that one example would be ‘an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant… harm to your charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your charity through its work (who are collectively referred to throughout this guidance as people who come into contact with your charity through its work)’.