6th September 2022
The Premier League Charitable Fund and the EFL Trust have introduced a new Capability Code of Practice (the Code) for Club Community Organisations (CCOs) to follow for the next three seasons.
The Code identifies three key areas of significant development in the external environment that have shaped the direction of the new framework and what is expected of CCOs. These three areas will also be key pillars of action for clubs in their communities, through their CCO. They are:
The increased societal pressure on clubs, as with all businesses, to take more responsibility for their local communities, the environment and their role in society as a whole, will likely stress test the essential characteristics of a CCO and the relationship they have with their associated club.
At its core, a charity must be established for certain charitable purposes which are for the public benefit. It must not pursue any non-charitable purpose. For CCOs, their charitable purposes may include the advancement of health, education, arts, culture, heritage, community development and/or amateur sport, as well as the promotion of racial harmony or equality and diversity.
The public benefit of that purpose is usually satisfied by the CCO focusing on the club’s local community.
It is well recognised that a charity’s association with a non-charity can be beneficial to the charity and assist it to meet its charitable aims – indeed, a CCO’s continued relationship with its associated club may be vital to its continued existence.
For CCOs, this will often come in the form of financial support from its associated club, but it may also include access to shared resources (such as HR, maintenance and payroll staff) and office space at the stadium/training ground, as well as the benefits of simply being linked to the club and therefore the ability to harness the power of its name, fan base and commercial appeal.
Dependence on the associated club invites risks which could threaten the fundamental requirements of the CCO, as a charity. In particular:
The Charity Commission regulates charities to ensure they are complying with the law and, ultimately, operating for the sole purpose of furthering their charitable purposes for the public benefit.
The Commission has wide-ranging powers to ensure compliance. In serious cases, the Commission may open a statutory enquiry into the charity and, if necessary, remove trustees or other officers/employees from the charity and/or dictate that they act in a certain way. The Commission may also disqualify individuals from acting as trustees for other charities.
Enquiries and outcomes are generally published and therefore, particularly in a high-profile sector like football, likely to attract negative press and criticism (for both the club and the CCO).
For the reasons above, it is in both parties’ interests to ensure the independence of the CCO. While the CCO can properly rely on the funding, support and status of their associated club, it is vital that both parties understand the boundaries of their arrangement.
The strongest and most proactive step clubs and CCOs can take is to enter into a formal agreement setting out the terms of their relationship (or, if they already have one in place, review their existing terms to ensure the agreement deals with all aspects of their relationship with certainty).
Some key points to consider:
How we can help clubs and their CCOs