CRITICISM has been levelled at previous management of a youth football league over the way its finances were run.

An independent financial review into the operation of Bolton Bury District Football League between 2016 and 2019 alleges that adequate financial controls were not in place, with payments made to trustees and money paid out without receipts being provided.

The league is a charity and operates as Northwest Football Trust Ltd, but the state of the league’s finances came to light after accountants responsible for managing and filing the charity accounts expressed concern about the lack of financial controls in place.

A review was commissioned from Harrison Salmon Associates which revealed concerns about the way the league was being managed. The report is due to be presented to league members at their AGM in the University of Bolton Stadium today.

A report by the current trustees states: “It was believed that a number of decisions not in the best interests of the league or the charity were being made.”

The trustees state that one of those decisions was in relation to paying the then general secretary, Chris Rees, £600 a month as a consultant.

The role had previously been a voluntary one, but there is no record of the change to a paid role being approved by the board of directors. Instead, states the report, the decision was made by a “self made” operating board, comprised of Mr Rees, league chairman Gary Russell and Rebecca Berry, which “had no mandate within rules of the league, the FA, Bolton Bury District Football League memorandums of association or charity law”.

In November last year a new board of trustees passed a special resolution to immediately stop all future payments to Mr Rees.

The accountant’s review revealed that Mr Rees was paid £1,200 as a consultant in August and September last year — one month directly to him and a second payment to his limited company. The money amounted to 15 per cent of the league’s revenue for 2018/19. No formal contract existed with Mr Rees. In addition, the review showed that, in July 2018, £1,000 was spent at the Queen Victoria pub on league committee entertainment, but no receipts were produced.

A request to the committee by the general secretary, in late 2018, to buy 15 iPads at a cost of £4,785 was turned down.

The current trustees’ report states that, if the purchase of the iPads had gone ahead and Mr Rees continued to be paid, the league would have made a loss of £3,016 in 2019.

Also raised in the review was the payment of £300 to Mrs Berry for the storage of league footballing equipment, although no minutes were found supporting the decision or contract for the supply of the service. The trustees’ report states that, at the time, the equipment was being stored for free elsewhere.

The accountants’ review states: “The concept of unpaid trusteeship has been one of the defining characteristics of the charitable sector, contributing greatly to public confidence in charities.”

The review also queries the lack of documentation regarding a decision to hold a summer ball last year, which was then cancelled, leaving the league with a £9,006.63 loss.

“We cannot comment on the reasons behind this cancellation, which may have been out of the charity’s control, however we cannot see any documentation behind the decision to hold the ball in the first place and the reasons why this was cancelled,” it states.

However, the accountants say that issues with the financial management of the league have now been addressed.

Controls in place now include: no more cash payments or cashing of cheques, all transactions through an accounting system overseen by accountants, all payments require trustee approval, no roles within the charity to be paid.

Mr Barlow, who was appointed as the league’s general secretary in March, said the report’s findings came as a “shock” to him, and promised things would improve in the future.

He added: “I am glad it has come out, we have got to be completely transparent and open.”

“I am confident that the board and committee will move forward in a positive manner.”

Mr Rees declined to comment.