'I have never abused, vilified, harassed or bullied anyone' - Kick It Out chair issues strong statement
Kick It Out chair Lord Ouseley has insisted he has never "abused, vilified, harassed or bullied anyone" as he made a powerful defence to allegations about the working environment at football's anti-discrimination charity.
The Charity Commission is investigating Kick It Out after concerns were raised about staff welfare.
The organisation will also conduct an independent inquiry into the criticisms that have been levelled against it.
Ouseley said in a 700-word personal statement on the Kick It Out website that he had to "face up to any criticism made" and had "no problem in accepting (his) responsibility".
He added: "However, that does not mean that I am going to accept unreasonable and unjustified media criticism. During the 25 years of my tenure as an unpaid, voluntary and dedicated servant of Kick It Out, as well as other charities to which I have given my all, I have never, in my view, and would defy anyone to bring forward evidence to the contrary, abused, vilified, harassed or bullied anyone.
"I do not believe that staff at Kick It Out have engaged in such conduct and I certainly would not condone such conduct."
Ouseley also emphasised that Kick It Out bosses gave "their best endeavours and dedication" to a staff member who made an allegation of sexual abuse.
It has since emerged that the allegation from 2017 was not brought to the attention of Kick It Out's other trustees until October of this year. The Charity Commission was then alerted.
Ouseley said that "the allegation that Kick it Out did not provide appropriate support to a staff member who claimed sexual abuse involving someone who has no connection with Kick It Out" was a matter for the independent investigation.
"But, I know that the Kick It Out senior staff gave their best endeavours and dedication to the affected staff member.
"Clearly, from my perspective, having been told that the individual did not want to involve the police, which I emphasised should have happened immediately, and wanted the matter resolved in a private manner, I assumed the task of preserving and safeguarding that privacy.
"I hold my hands up as guilty if I should have told my trustees and the Charity Commissioners."
Ouseley, who founded Kick It Out in 1993, is one of the charity's eight trustees.
Based in London and funded by the Football Association, Football League, Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association, Kick It Out currently has 17 employees.
But this week the Daily Mail has reported that at least 10 members of staff have left since the start of 2016 because of a poor working environment at the charity and one of the leavers, a senior member of staff, was threatened with legal action for suggesting they had been bullied.
Ouseley said: "Staff, who have left the organisation during the past three years have done so either to go on to better paid jobs, less stressful occupation, or to establish their own consultancy business or indeed, as is the case in two former staff members, who were already on final warnings for serious misconduct and facing potential disciplinary proceedings, left the organisation voluntarily to avoid the potential consequences."
The claims about Kick It Out came just a week after Lord Ouseley announced he was standing down as chairman after 25 years of leading the fight against racism in football.
But he denied suggestions they played any part in his decision to step down, saying: "I am leaving the organisation, along with all my other activities, because after 56 years of continuous public service, ageing and declining health and energy levels, I feel that I need to try to enjoy the final phase of my life."