Crisis club Glentoran are now facing anarchy as well as financial meltdown — with players refusing to train after going without pay for weeks.
The playing staff were absent from training earlier this week, and a decision about this evening’s session will be taken after an emergency meeting with club chairman Terence Brannigan.
The Belfast Telegraph understands there is now a serious threat of redundancies to staff at Northern Ireland’s second biggest football club.
The stayaway players are understood to have the backing of manager Eddie Patterson and his coaching team for their stance, but it is understoood they will not refuse to play in the home Danske Bank Premiership clash with Ballinamallard United on Saturday.
While neither officials nor players were available for comment last night, it has been made clear the players do not want the club put at any more of a financial risk by failing to fulfil fixtures but they can no longer afford to travel to training twice a week.
Glentoran officials are desperately trying to bring investment into the famous east Belfast club after a recent Belfast Telegraph revelation that players had not received wages since the end of September.
That scenario is unlikely to change any time this week.
To add to their woes, Glentoran are also facing legal action from former assistant manager Jimmy Brown, who is claiming he was refused an interview for the manager’s job when Patterson was appointed as Scott Young’s replacement in February.
The veteran Brown is citing age discrimination on the grounds he wasn’t offered an interview for the post despite his experience and qualifications.
It is not the first time they have faced legal action from a former employee in recent years, with ex-goalkeeper Michael Dougherty’s case eventually costing the club almost £30,000 after costs.
Chairman Brannigan has been criticised for his lack of attendance at the club since his arrival in January with promises of a new stadium — and those dreams seem a long way off at present.
Club officials remain hopeful players will be fully paid before the New Year and the current situation is merely a “cash flow problem”.
Glentoran players have taken pay-cuts in recent seasons and several big earners have been shipped out in a bid to balance the books.
Saturday’s clash with Ballinamallard will go definitely go ahead and will bring in much-needed revenue but the squad are seeking a commitment that wages will be paid and that if the problem persists, they could have the right to be released from their contracts.
In February 2010, a £450,000 donation from a mystery benefactor helped prevent the club from being wound up.
Since then, they have also been given an advance of prize money by the Irish FA, and further £500,000 investment was made in February. The club then received a £60,000 loan from the IFA in May, after they struggled to pay their players' wages for April, and that is paid back at a rate of £3,000 per month.