The CEO of the Football Association Wales (FAW) is stepping down after losing a no confidence motion triggered by the controversial appointment of an executive involved in the Post Office IT scandal.
Jonathan Ford will leave the organisation this month after 11 years in the role, but FAW will still face questions over the appointment of Angela van den Bogerd, who was a central figure at the Post Office when it treated subpostmasters disgracefully.
The no confidence vote, which he lost convincingly last month, was said to have been triggered by the controversial appointment of former Post Office executive Angela van den Bogerd as FAW’s head of people, a position she currently holds.
Van den Bogerd was a senior executive at the Post Office during a period when subpostmasters, who run branches, were held responsible for accounting shortfalls caused by errors in its Horizon computer system. Many were prosecuted and some sent to prison.
Attention was drawn to Van den Bogerd’s appointment at FAW in December 2020, when Jack Sargeant, Welsh parliament member for Alyn and Deeside, expressed his concerns.
Following news that Ford was stepping down, Sargeant tweeted that the resignation of the CEO does not change his position. “My concerns regarding the appointment of former Post Office director as head of people remain. Following today’s announcement from @FAWales, I will be writing to the Chair on the matter.”
What has become known as the Post Office Horizon scandal is often referred to as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history, with about 900 subpostmasters prosecuted using computer evidence that has been proved to contain errors.
A Computer Weekly investigation in 2009 revealed that subpostmasters were being blamed for unexplained financial losses, which they claimed were caused by errors made by the Horizon system. The Post Office denied this, and many subpostmasters were subsequently prosecuted for theft and false accounting, with prison sentences, community service, criminal records and heavy fines among the injustices they suffered as a result (see timeline below).
In a multimillion-pound High Court trial, where subpostmasters sued the Post Office, judge Peter Fraser said when Van den Bogerd gave evidence for the Post Office she had tried to mislead him.
When he handed down his judgment, a huge victory for the subpostmasters, he was highly critical of her. “There were two specific matters where [Van den Bogerd] did not give me frank evidence, and sought to obfuscate matters and mislead me,” he said.
Van den Bogerd left her position as Post Office director quietly in May last year, despite many years of service.
A number of the affected subpostmasters were based in Wales, including Alan Bates, who went on to lead subpostmasters to victory in the High Court, and Noel Thomas, who spent his 60th birthday in prison while serving a 12-week sentence after being prosecuted for false accounting.
“It was hell on Earth and it took me a long time to get over it,” Thomas told Computer Weekly in 2009. He is one of 47 subpostmasters who will have their appeals for their convictions to be quashed heard in the Court of Appeal next month.
According to Wales Online, there have been a number of issues of concern to FAW board members, but controversy over the appointment of Van den Bogerd triggered the motion of no confidence in Ford.
FAW in a statement: “[We] would like to place on record [our] gratitude to Mr Ford for his efforts over the past 11 years and wish him all the best for future endeavours.”