Matthew Dimbylow competed at two Paralympic Games ©Getty Images

Paralympian Matthew Dimbylow has been banned from serving as a trustee to charities after an investigation found funds raised for a disability sports charity were paid to companies run by Dimbylow and his wife.

The Charity Commission said Dimbylow and his wife Emma had been responsible for "serious misconduct and/or mismanagement” at the charity Dream It, Believe It, Achieve (DIBIAI).

The Dimbylows served as trustees for the charity, which was aimed to promote and support the physical education of children and young people including those with disabilities.

A commercial lottery company had been employed by the trustees to run a scratch-card lottery for the charity between 2011 and 2014, which was reported to have raised a considerable amount of money.

An investigation was launched by the Charity Commission in 2017 following concerns about the proportion of funds the charity had spent on fundraising.

"This inquiry has found that the lottery raised over £6 million ($7.5 million/€7.1 million) yet the costs of generating this return, including via payments to the lottery organiser, amounted to £4.2 million ($5.3 million/€5 million)," the Charity Commission said.

"Of the remainder, £1 million ($1.25 million/€1.2 million) was passed to three different companies run by the couple and from which they profited personally.

"Only £300,000 ($375,000/€355,000) went to charitable purposes that were unconnected with the Dimbylows.

"The inquiry has concluded that the two former trustees mismanaged and misapplied the charity’s funds and are responsible for serious mismanagement and/or misconduct.

"The Commission issued a claim in the High Court to recover the funds misapplied by the Dimbylows to their own companies, which they settled on 12 September 2019."

Alan Shearer joined the National Football Museum Hall Of Fame at the same time as Matthew Dimbylow ©Getty Images
Alan Shearer joined the National Football Museum Hall Of Fame at the same time as Matthew Dimbylow ©Getty Images

Matthew Dimbylow has been permanently removed as a trustee, while Emma Dimbylow has signed an undertaking not to act as a trustee again.

The Charity Commission said the remaining trustee, who was appointed after the misconduct and mismanagement, is in the process of winding up the charity.

"The public expects trustees to ensure charitable funds are always carefully managed in the best interests of their charity and the cause they serve, in this case supporting children and disabled people with sport," said Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Charity Commission.

"Instead, the Dimbylows abused the trust that was placed in them as trustees.

"It is right that we took action to recover misapplied charitable funds that went to the former trustees’ own companies and acted to ensure those responsible cannot become trustees again.

"We hope this sends a powerful message to others who may be tempted to use charity in this way."

The Dimbylows have issued a statement following the decision, claiming the Charity Commission report's conclusion was "totally unjustified".

A statement claimed they had settled with the Charity Commission due to being unable to "litigate against the deep pockets of the Charity Commission".

"Throughout our time as directors and trustees of DIBIAI, we sought only to provide disabled individuals with access to, and the opportunity of participating in, sporting activities," the Dimbylows told the Northwich Guardian.

Matthew Dimbylow has been banned from serving as a charity trustee ©Getty Images
Matthew Dimbylow has been banned from serving as a charity trustee ©Getty Images

"As a family, we are all too familiar with the expensive and under-resourced industry of disability sport, and DIBIAI was incorporated purely to raise funds to benefit such individuals.

"DIBIAI raised funds through a successful lottery campaign.

"A large proportion of that fund-raising was completed before DIBIAI obtained charitable status, and all applicable laws and regulations were followed throughout.

"During the Charity Commission’s inquiry, it approached the Fundraising Regulator and the Gambling Commission.

"Neither of those two regulators found any issues of misconduct and/or mismanagement against the way in which the lottery was conducted and took no action.

"We co-operated fully with the Charity Commission throughout its inquiry and spent a large amount of time providing highly detailed evidence to the commission in order to prove that all payments were made in furtherance of DIBIAI’s charitable objectives."

Matthew Dimbylow represented Britain in seven-a-side football at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Dimbylow began competing in seven-a-side football after suffering a head injury in a match in 2003.

He was later diagnosed with extra pyramidal syndrome, a condition with similar symptoms to Parkinson's disease which affects the parts of the brain that control movement and speech.

Dimbylow was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall Of Fame under the "Football For All" category in 2014.

He received the award from fellow Hall Of Fame member David Clarke, at a ceremony which also saw Michael Owen, Alan Shearer and Patrick Vieira among the inductees.