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£7,000 for Portadown footballer over club refusal to pay him during injury

Exclusive: Portadown ordered to fulfil their wage obligations to former midfielder

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 26/08/2016

Former Portadown player Peter McMahon leaves yesterday’s tribunal
Former Portadown player Peter McMahon leaves yesterday’s tribunal
Former manager Ronnie McFall

An Irish League footballer whose club refused to pay him after he got injured has been awarded £7,000.

Peter McMahon took a case against Portadown FC after they withheld his £350-a-week wages.

Mr McMahon had struggled with a hip problem for most of the 2015/16 season.

The 27-year-old midfielder said he had been told by then manager Ronnie McFall that if he was injured, he would not get paid.

Mr McMahon believed it was said in jest or as an incentive to encourage him back to fitness.

But yesterday an industrial tribunal heard it was "a joke with a jab" when, weeks later, Portadown started withholding wages.

Employment judge Paul Buggy awarded Mr McMahon £6,300 for the 18 weeks' unpaid wages.

He also ordered Portadown to pay a further £700 after they failed to provide the player with a copy of his contract.

Nobody from the Ports turned up at the hearing in Belfast to contest the case.

Afterwards Mr McMahon, who no longer plays for the club, said he was disappointed the case had to come to a tribunal.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am pleased with today's outcome, but I am saddened by the fact that Portadown Football Club failed to discharge its obligations in terms of paying my wages and in regards to how it dealt with my case."

Mr McMahon, who previously played for several League of Ireland clubs, including Drogheda United and Bohemians, signed for Portadown in 2013, initially on amateur terms.

He was registered as a professional at the start of 2015 after agreeing a £350-a-week deal. Mr McMahon said he was not given a copy of the contract he signed.

He played around 70 league games in his first two seasons, but his 2015/16 campaign was disrupted because of injury.

He told the tribunal: "I was fine from the start of January and the season before that - I played every game that season. When the new season kicked in, I got an injury in July 2015, in pre-season. I kept playing through the injury and I played as much as I could for Portadown."

After appearing in the first three games, Mr McMahon missed the next two against Ballinamallard United and Linfield.

While he appeared in 13 league games - starting 11 of them - he said he was often playing through the pain barrier.

His final outing for the Shamrock Park club was a 3-2 win against Carrick Rangers in mid-November. "I kept telling him (Mr McFall) not to play me but he just kept selecting me," he explained.

Mr McMahon said that the injury was a "hip joint problem", and he added: "Because I kept playing I was getting tendinitis in my groin."

He recalled a conversation with Mr McFall in September when the then manager indicated that he would not be paid if he did not play.

"He just said it to me as I was walking out to training, when I was struggling, and he just sort of said it to me jokingly - to get me playing through the injury."

He claimed that Mr McFall told him: "If you're injured you'll not get paid."

He added: "I just sort of laughed it off because I got on well with Ronnie."

Employment judge Buggy remarked during the hearing: "It was a joke with a jab."

Mr McMahon's solicitor Oisin Toner produced a medical report from a professor who assessed Mr McMahon's injury last November.

"It touches on the claimant's ability to play. The club seemed to have a concern that he was not being enthusiastic, if I can put it that way, in his efforts," Mr Toner said.

Mr McMahon said he was last paid by Portadown in the final week of December. His contract ran to the end of April, leaving 18 weeks unpaid.

Nobody from Portadown was present for the hearing. Mr Toner said that he had written to the club twice before proceedings got underway. Both letters - sent on April 8 and May 16 - went unanswered, he added.

Mr Buggy said he would issue a default judgment - a ruling without any consideration of evidence - as no defence had been offered, awarding Mr McMahon £7,000 in total.

Portadown said last night said it would appeal the decision.

The club said: "An IFA tribunal upheld Portadown FC's decision by the manager to withhold payment to Peter McMahon, following his refusal to accept professional medical advice by a senior consultant.

"As our representative has been on holidays and only received the notification in the last few days, he applied in writing to have the hearing postponed, as a long standing engagement was scheduled on Thursday."

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