A medal-winning former Paralympian footballer has been banned from being a director by the charities watchdog after an investigation revealed a disability charity he founded paid £1million raised by the public to businesses run by him and his wife.
The Charity Commission has said Matt Dimbylow, 51, who represented Britain’s sevens side football team at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics, and Paralympic World Cup medalist, was guilty of gross misconduct and breach of trust public.
Of £6m raised for the Dream It Believe It Achieve It (DIBIAI) charity through a lottery scratch card scheme, £1m has been donated to businesses run by Dimbylow and his wife, Emma Dimbylow, found the commission.
A further £4.2m was spent on fundraising costs, including payments to an anonymous private lottery operator. Only £300,000 was spent on charitable purposes.
“The public expects trustees to ensure that charitable funds are always carefully managed in the best interests of their charity and the cause they serve, in this case supporting children and people disabled by sport. Instead, the Dimbylows abused the trust placed in them as trustees,’ Charity Commission Investigations Officer Amy Spiller said.
The commission concluded that there had been a significant breach of trust within the charity, while its failure to resolve conflicts of interest had resulted in the couple receiving an “unauthorized financial advantage substantial” that was not in the best interests of the charity.
Dimbylow – described as the ‘driving force’ of DIBIAI – has been permanently banned from being a director, while Emma Dimbylow has signed an agreement promising not to act as a director again. The charity is in the process of being liquidated and any remaining funds will be donated to another disability sports charity.
Matt Dimbylow got involved in the Paralympian game after a head injury in 2003 triggered a brain condition similar to Parkinson’s disease. He also captained the England cerebral palsy football team and was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame alongside Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and Patrick Vieira in 2013.
He registered the charity the same year, and the commission concluded that he planned to “extract funds from it”.
He said he intervened early on to stop him, as trustee, paying himself an £80,000 salary. He later amended the charity’s governing document to allow it to pay for businesses owned by himself and his wife.
The commission began to formally investigate the charity in 2017, and Matt Dimbylow was removed as trustee two years later. Some of the funds paid by the charity to the Dimbylows’ businesses were later recovered by the commission through the courts.
While the investigation was ongoing, the commission said it had taken steps to restrict more than 30 bank accounts held in the charity’s name to prevent payments from being made without approval. of the regulator. Although the charity fundraising regulator has reviewed the actions of the lottery operator, no action has been taken.
The watchdog criticized two other anonymous trustees of the charity, who it said were insufficiently independent and failed to hold the Dimbylows accountable for their actions.
“Their lack of oversight and control created an environment where the charity’s funds could be misused,” the commission concluded.
The commission said it hoped its regulatory action against DIBIAI would “send a powerful message to others who may be tempted to use charity in this way”.
Matt Dimbylow and DIBIAI have been approached for comment.