Crisis-hit Portadown face threat of relegation from Danske Bank Premiership
Crisis club Portadown are facing the threat of relegation from the Danske Bank Premiership over a breach of strict wage payment rules.
League chiefs are in possession of documentary evidence of undisclosed payments to midfielder Tim Mouncey in contravention of league rules.
Statement from the Directors of Portadown Football Club 10/03/16 pic.twitter.com/hrxh42tdDl— Portadown FC (@Portadownfc) March 10, 2016
This has now been sent to the Irish FA governing body to decide upon the sanction Portadown will be hit with and they are facing double jeopardy.
Automatic relegation is one option open to the IFA, according to their regulations.
IFA disciplinary chiefs are also believed to be looking at an ineligible player rap. That would mean every game in which Mouncey featured going down as a 3-0 defeat, plunging the Ports to the bottom of the table and almost certain relegation.
The evidence turned up in a league investigation into undisclosed payments by all clubs. Despite suspicions of widespread abuse of the league's wage cap policy, the only documented evidence found related to Mouncey's registration by Portadown as an amateur while being paid an undeclared wage. There is no suggestion the player was aware of the club's actions.
The relegation threat adds to Portadown's woes following the departure of their manager of 29 years, Ronnie McFall. He yesterday broke his silence to insist he was not bitter at the ending of his long association with his home town club nor bore them any ill will.
Portadown have been caught out in contravention of Northern Ireland Football League wage cap rules that measure the amount clubs can pay players in relation to their income.
A widespread investigation into all clubs by a league committee, seeking evidence of undisclosed payments, only came up with documented proof in the case of Portadown and their registration of Mouncey.
Carrick Rangers, all of whose players are registered as amateurs, also came under scrutiny as a result of verbal disclosures to the committee but without documentary evidence, a case against them cannot be made to the Irish FA.
This is not the first time Portadown have faced the spectre of relegation over administrative lapses.
Back in 2008, they failed to gain a place in the IFA's new invitational league when their application was received after the deadline. That meant having to fight their way back out of the Championship and the Ports will have to do that all over again if the IFA act within their rules this time and impose the strongest punishment of relegation.
The best case scenario is that Portadown lose all of the points from the 14 games that Mouncey played this season, plunging them into relegation trouble at the bottom of the Premiership table, but at least giving them some hope of survival in the season's final nine games.
Ironically, Mouncey joined the Shamrock Park side after they were put down the last time and has spent eight seasons with the club.
The news will come as a major blow to caretaker boss Pat McGibbon, who has been placed in charge until the end of the season after McFall's departure.
He was hoping to have a chance of finishing seventh to qualify for the Europa League play-offs.
On Thursday afternoon, the Portadown board of directors released a statement denying the player received payment.
It said: "Following a request from the IFA, confidential records were passed to their offices on Monday of this week, demonstrating conclusively that the player in question did not receive any payment whatsoever from the club.
"The player is fully supportive of the club's position."
The Belfast Telegraph understands that the Northern Ireland Football League committee investigating the matter has not seen any such documents, other than those passed to the IFA as part of their investigation.