Kick It Out: Investigation into football charity finds series of failures

The Kick It Out logo on a screen in a football stadium
Kick It Out was founded in 1993

Anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out has been criticised for "poor communication" over its handling of a sexual assault allegation in a report by the Charity Commission.

Kick It Out was made aware of a serious incident involving a staff member in 2017 but trustees were not told until October last year.

The Charity Commission was then informed, a month after individuals at Kick It Out had raised concerns about safeguarding, bullying and harassment at the organisation to the commission.

Guidance from the commission states charities must inform it of a serious incident "as soon as is reasonably possible after it happens, or immediately after your charity becomes aware of it".

The report found "a series of governance failures related to poor communication" among the senior management at Kick It Out, which "contributed to the slow sharing of information among the trustees" about the sexual assault allegation.

It also found that Kick It Out "substantively supported" the person who alleged the sexual assault, which the charity said had been committed by someone from outside the organisation.

In identifying a "number of failures", the report said there was "poor communication and a lack of training in key areas such as governance and staff welfare" and that "many staff felt they were not managed well by the senior management team, with some feeling overworked and inadequately supported".

The commission made a series of recommendations including specialist governance training, scaling back workloads and the introduction of a more effective support system.

It added that it expected all the recommended changes to be made within six months of the new Kick It Out board's first meeting in early November.

"The trustees of Kick It Out should have made protecting those who came into contact with their charity from harm a governance priority," the commission's head of regulatory compliance Tracy Howarth said.

"The charity did not fully deliver on this expectation, largely due to failures in communication within the charity.

"Just as in football, everyone involved in charities has the right to feel safe.

"It is because of the importance of Kick It Out's work, particularly in the current climate, that the trustees understand that it matters just as much how the charity delivers on its purpose, as what it delivers, so that it can continue to be successful and thrive in the future."

Kick It Out said it will not publish the full independent report because of "confidentiality obligations" but stated the review found the charity had provided appropriate support to the individual who reported the sexual assault and that the report rejected the claims of bullying and harassment.

Sanjay Bhandari, who was appointed Kick It Out chairman last month to succeed founder Lord Ouseley, said the new board is "fully committed" to implementing the report's recommendations.

"The recurring theme of the report, and the root cause of governance challenges, were around breakdowns in communications," he said.

"The board accepts and welcomes the recommendations. We have learned from this experience and have a refreshed board where half of the members have been appointed in the last six weeks, including myself."

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