Relegation threat hangs over Portadown over player payments
The Northern Ireland Football League could indirectly relegate Portadown, even though the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee decided against imposing such a serious sanction.
And other clubs could now find themselves ducking for cover with NIFL ready to go deeper in their investigations into undisclosed payments to players in both the Danske Bank Premiership and Championship.
NIFL are to closely examine the Disciplinary Committee's findings after they deemed the Ports guilty of two breaches of the rules governing payments to players and fined them £10,000 as well as imposing a ban on signing professional players until the end of next season.
If, however, that examination throws up player eligibility issues then the Shamrock Park club could face a points deduction with the knock-on effect being pushed to the brink of dropping out of the Premiership.
Portadown did stay within their allowed spending under the IFA's Salary Cap Protocol, but were found to have made payments to midfielder Tim Mouncey and one other player, both of whom were registered on amateur contracts - which was first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph five weeks ago.
Read more: Transfer ban is a big blow to Portadown
It is understood that of the two other cases brought against Portadown, one was dropped, while the other wasn't proven.
There is no suggestion that Mouncey was aware of the club's actions.
Instead of being thrown out of the Danske Bank Premiership, which is the punishment spelled out in Article 8 of the SCP rules, the Disciplinary Committee took the path of dealing with Portadown's conduct as bringing the game into disrepute, under Article 17 of the IFA's Articles of Association.
It was NIFL who referred the matter to the IFA Disciplinary Committee in the first place after irregularities were uncovered during an investigation into payments of all clubs in the Premiership.
NIFL compiled a 60-page report of findings into the matter before handing it over to the Disciplinary Committee.
When asked by the Belfast Telegraph for a response to the sanctions imposed on Portadown, NIFL said: "The NI Football League have requested details of the determination of the Irish FA Disciplinary Committee."
Once the full findings are examined, NIFL will then determine Mouncey's status and if they decide that he wasn't entitled to be registered as an amateur there could be far-reaching consequences.
Portadown have taken 18 points from games in which Mouncey played this season. Losing those would see them sink to the bottom of the Premiership table and be facing almost certain relegation, with not enough points to play for to overtake second-bottom Warrenpoint Town.
The only way Portadown could then be saved would be if the winners of Championship 1 don't have the necessary licence to gain promotion, which would put them into a play-off against the runners-up.
Championship clubs haven't yet been subject to the same checks as their Premiership counterparts, but NIFL are now set to extend their investigations as the top brass get tough on something that has been speculated about for some time.
All along Portadown have been confident that they could prove their innocence and the club are expected to confirm today that they will appeal the punishments handed down by the Disciplinary Committee.
The Ports have endured a difficult season on the pitch too.
They currently sit ninth in the Danske Bank Premiership table and manager Ronnie McFall resigned last month after 29 years in charge following a shock Irish Cup quarter-final defeat to Lurgan Celtic, with Pat McGibbon currently in charge on a caretaker basis.