Gordon Taylor to stand down as PFA head this season after 40 years

Sport

Gordon Taylor will bring an end to a 40-year career as the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association by the end of this season, he has announced in a letter to the PFA’s members.

The players’ union said in March last year that Taylor, 75, would step down at the annual general meeting that followed the completion of an independent review into its governance, led by Naomi Ellenbogen QC.

In his letter to members, Taylor said the review had concluded in July this year, and the union, which has been the focus of sustained criticism for years, had been progressing towards implementing the recommended changes.

The independent review has recommended the chief executive’s salary – the PFA’s most vexed problem since Taylor began to earn prodigiously himself – should be determined by the non-executive directors, with comparable positions in other organisations used as benchmarks.

The most recent annual return published by the PFA, for 2019, discloses that Taylor’s total salary, including bonus and benefits, was £2m. His pay exceeded £2m in 2016-17, when he was paid £2.29m, an increase from the £1.3m he received the previous year, accounted for mostly by a bonus of £777,183. The bonus is said to be linked to the financial settlement Taylor secures with the Premier League for PFA funding, and the exact same figure, £777,183, was paid as a bonus to him last year.

For the year to 30 June 2019, the total income of the PFA charity, through which most of the PFA’s funds are now administered, was £27m. Although the union is recognised to be engaged in valuable benevolent, player welfare and career development programmes, there has been persistent criticism that the help offered has been insufficient, particularly to former players with dementia, financial difficulties and other hardships.

Repeated unfavourable comparisons are made with Taylor’s earnings: in the charity’s 2018-19 accounts, the total spent on benevolent work for the year was £2m, almost the same figure as the chief executive’s salary package.

For Taylor to go at the end of this season, having remained in place through the independent review and since its completion in July, represents another triumph for his endurance. He has continued through the strongest challenge to his tenure, by the chairman, Ben Purkiss, who called for an independent review in November 2018.

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At the same time, the Charity Commission announced a regulatory compliance case into the PFA Charity, its relationship with the union itself and “management of conflicts of interest”. That led in January this year to a statutory inquiry, which the commission said is “to examine concerns about the way the charity is managed”. A Charity Commission spokesperson said the inquiry was ongoing.

“We are unable to comment further at this time so as not to prejudice the outcome of the inquiry,” the spokesperson said. “We intend to publish a report setting out our findings on conclusion of the inquiry.”

The PFA has not published the independent review’s report but issued a summary of its recommendations, which involve a complete overhaul of the union’s governance and structures. A new “players board” is to be established as the overall decision-making authority, comprising 13 representatives, two each from the WSL, Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two, and three former players. An “operational board”, including the new chief executive, chair, vice-chair, finance director and four appointed non-executive directors, will oversee the PFA’s day-to-day running, reporting to the players board.

Gary Neville is chairing a three-man selection panel looking to appoint the non-executive directors. They will then lead the recruitment search for a chief executive candidate, who must be elected by the union’s membership.

Taylor, a former winger for Blackburn and Bolton, was appointed the chief executive in 1981 and pioneered Football in the Community programmes in the 1980s, an achievement of which he remains very proud. He has stayed on through the criticisms, review and charity commission inquiry, and when he leaves at the end of the season, will have served for four decades.