Former Paralympian disqualified as trustee over ‘extracting funds’ from charity

The Charity Commission says it believes Matthew Dimbylow and his wife Emma had ‘intended to extract funds’ from the moment they registered their charity

Matthew Dimbylow
Former Paralympic football player Matthew Dimbylow

A married couple paid nearly £1m of charitable funds into companies they controlled, a Charity Commission inquiry has concluded.

The regulator said it believed the former Paralympian Matthew Dimbylow, the founder of Dream It. Believe It. Achieve It, “intended to extract funds” from the charity from the moment it was registered. 

He has been disqualified from acting as a trustee in the future, while his wife Emma, who also sat on DIBIAI’s board, has voluntarily agreed not to be a trustee again.

The commission’s five-year inquiry found that the charity raised over £6m from a series of scratch-card lotteries, but spent only £300,000 of this – or 5 per cent – on charitable activity unrelated to the couple. In the same period, £975,800 was diverted to three private companies they controlled.

The one remaining trustee is now winding up the charity.

DIBIAI was established as a company in 2009, before registering as a health and sports charity in 2013.

The commission said Matthew Dimbylow originally proposed that he and his wife would be the only trustees and would pay themselves annual salaries of between £60,000 and £80,000.

After the regulator advised that this would not be appropriate, the charity registered with four trustees, but amended the commission’s model governing document to remove restrictions on making payments to companies related to the trustees.

The commission said Matthew Dimbylow had “at all times been the driving force behind the charity”.

DIBIAI raised more than £6m through a series of scratch-card lotteries between 2011 and 2014, the commission reported, and the external company running those lotteries received about 70 per cent of those donated funds. Just £300,000 was spent on charitable activities independent of the couple.

In the same period, the charity made payments worth nearly £1m to three private companies where the Dimbylows were directors and shareholders: Aragorn Sport Limited, DBA Sport CIC and Socatots (Mid-Cheshire) Ltd.

This amounted to serious mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration of the charity, the commission decided.

Its report said: “The commission concluded that from the time Matthew Dimbylow had sought to register the charity he had intended to extract funds from it.

“Having been advised by the commission that it was not acceptable for the trustees to be in receipt of remuneration given the proposed charity structure, Matthew Dimbylow amended the governing document to ensure that the Dimbylows could receive funds from the charity via their companies.”

The Charity Commission website shows that DIBIAI’s income varied considerably from year to year. It raised £88,000 in 2017/18, then £14,000 in 2019/20. Last year the charity’s income grew more than tenfold to over £180,000.

DIBIAI did not respond to an email requesting comment. The person who answered the telephone number provided for the charity on the regulator’s website said they did not know anything about the case. The charity’s website appears to have been deleted.

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