Revealed: Portadown players in Football League pay probe
As trouble-hit Portadown prepare to launch an appeal against Irish FA sanctions imposed on them over player payment irregularities, the Belfast Telegraph can today reveal details of the findings of a Northern Ireland Football League investigation that landed them in the dock.
Of the four players whose contracts came under scrutiny, only midfielder Tim Mouncey's name had been in the public domain after he was found by a League investigating committee to be on the club payroll while registered as an amateur in contravention of League rules.
The other three can now be revealed to be Peter McMahon and Gary Twigg as well as Darren Murray, who has since joined Cliftonville.
The cases involving Mouncey and Twigg were found to be proven; Murray unproven and McMahon's referred to the IFA's player registrations sub-committee for further investigation.
They will look at claims in a 60-page dossier, forwarded by the League to the IFA, that McMahon was paid a wage for a period as an amateur before turning professional.
The discrepancy in Twigg's case, according to an insider, relates to his contract, lodged with the IFA, showing him being paid 38 weeks of the year while the club payroll revealed 52 weeks of payment.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that Portadown put forward a case that the player worked for them in an ambassadorial role for the 14 close season weeks in question but no documentary evidence of this was produced.
Following Monday night's probe into the findings, the IFA's disciplinary committee decided the Mouncey and Twigg cases breached football rules and found Portadown guilty of bringing the game into dispute on the two counts.
They imposed a fine of £10,000 - £5,000 to be paid within 14 days and the remainder by June 1, 2017. The Ports were also banned from signing players on professional contracts until June 1, 2017.
Despite being considered lenient by some observers, with relegation an option for the offences, the IFA action still poses a threat to Portadown's Premier League status in terms of reduced player strength next season and the possibility of a points deduction by League chiefs this season if they find eligibility rules have been broken.
Such is the seriousness of the situation, Portadown announced an immediate intention to appeal the outcome which they strongly dispute.
A statement on the club website yesterday said: "Portadown FC will be launching an appeal tomorrow against the IFA Disciplinary Committee's decisions taken on Monday evening, on the grounds that the evidence we supplied was sufficient to show that no undisclosed payments were made.
"Further evidence to support this stance will be supplied to the Appeals Board."
That appeal will need to be fast-tracked by the IFA with a raft of key end of season issues potentially affected if Portadown's punishment is upheld and they were to face further action from the League in the Mouncey case.
Possible financial implications for other clubs in the battles for European places and against relegation has already led some to seek legal advice.
A Portadown source confirmed the NIFL investigation had placed a spotlight on the four named players but the club remained confident of winning its appeal.
"It would be inappropriate to discuss the details of the investigation but we are aware of claims regarding those players and the club is confident it can win the appeal," said the source.