Transfer ban is a big blow to Portadown
Portadown haven't been relegated by the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee, but whoever the club appoint as their new manager will start next season fighting with one hand tied behind their back.
The committee slapped a massive £10,000 fine on the Shamrock Park club after finding them guilty of two offences following a Northern Ireland Football League investigation into undisclosed payments to players, which was revealed by the Belfast Telegraph last month.
The more serious and potentially far-reaching punishment, however, is a ban on signing any new professional players until the end of NEXT season.
That means the Ports, who were unable to add to their squad last summer when now departed boss Ronnie McFall had his hands tied because of financial constraints, won't be allowed to bring in any new players in either the summer transfer window or next January.
A Disciplinary Committee Statement spelt out the sanctions imposed on Portadown as:
- A fine of £10,000, £5,000 payable within 14 days and £5,000 suspended until June 1, 2017.
- A prohibition on Portadown FC from signing any new professional players on a new professional contract until June 1, 2017.
The Committee didn't consider the Portadown case under the IFA's Salary Cap Protocol, as expected, but instead used Article 17 of the Articles of Association to find the club guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.
That, unlike the automatic demotion spelt out in the SCP, doesn't specify a particular punishment.
Article 17 states: "Where any person or body has breached or caused or contributed to the breach of any of the Articles or brings the game of Association Football into disrepute, that person or body shall be liable to expulsion, suspension, fine and/or such other penalty or sanction as the Board may think fit.
"The Board may delegate these powers to the Disciplinary Committee.
"The Board, or the Disciplinary Committee acting on behalf of the Board, shall be the sole judge (and shall be unfettered in its judgment) as to what brings the game of Association Football into disrepute and what constitutes loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship."
The two separate guilty verdicts vindicates the NIFL investigation, whose committee is understood to have produced a 60-page report detailing its findings.
This included Ports midfielder Tim Mouncey's name appearing on a club payroll while registered as an amateur, although there is no suggestion that the player was aware of any breach of IFA rules.
In addition, three professionals were believed to have been paid more than the amount on registration forms lodged with the IFA.
NIFL representatives, however, did not attend last night's hearing after taking legal advice.
It is understood that one of the issues regarding the professional players related to a tax rebate, which would explain why the Ports were only found guilty of two offences.
A Portadown statement said: "The Board of Portadown FC are actively considering an appeal against the decision."
With just seven professional players still under contract at Shamrock Park beyond the end of the current season, the task of rebuilding a struggling squad is now more difficult than it first looked and whoever takes over permanently from McFall has a huge task on their hands.
McFall resigned after 29 years in charge following the Ports' Irish Cup quarter-final exit to Championship 1 side Lurgan Celtic.
Pat McGibbon is currently the club's caretaker boss and he will be one of those interviewed for the post within the next 10 days.
The Ports have 14 days to pay the immediate £5,000 fine imposed by the IFA Disciplinary Committee, but should they lodge an appeal, that - along with their grounds for appeal - must be submitted by the end of this week.