Belfast Telegraph

Portadown FC crisis storm warning is getting ever more severe as they face potential fine from IFA

By Graham Luney

Portadown's crisis will prove costly on and off the pitch as the club can expect further fines from football chiefs.

An Irish FA Disciplinary Committee is likely to conclude that Robert Garrett should not have played in the Ports' win over Ards on Saturday as he was suspended and that means the club will be hit with a £500 fine on top of losing the points from the 3-1 victory.

The financial penalties won't stop there, however, as the Shamrock Park side will today learn that they will be fined by the Northern Ireland Football League following comments made by director Trevor Marshall and published in the Portadown Times on Friday, October 21.

The interview, which Marshall gave with the full support of the Board of Directors, claimed that an NIFL payment - which was to go towards the £5,000 fine issued after irregularities were found in payments made to former striker Gary Twigg - was late.

NIFL strongly dispute this version of events and will move to protect their reputation by issuing a statement which includes details of a financial sanction for the Ports.

In the interview, Marshall stated: "With no income over the close season and costs continuing to run, it is always a difficult time to manage cashflow. A payment was due from the Northern Ireland Football League for £4,200 which we agreed would go towards the £5,000 Twigg fine.

"This NIFL payment was late and left us without the funds to cover the fine. A "payment on account" of £3,000 was made to the IFA on the strength of the NIFL payment but when this was delayed a "stop" was placed on the cheque and the £3,000 paid personally by a director."

While the penalties are hard to stomach, Portadown's problems are set to cause further upheaval in the boardroom and stands as news of the Garrett issue emerges.

Supporters had called off a boycott of the Ards game to offer encouragement to the team but that now appears certain to go ahead in another game with fans' patience running out and calls for sweeping changes in the boardroom not being answered to the supporters' satisfaction.

Chairman Roy McMahon has confirmed that a supporters representative will join the board but fans want even greater reform and the Garrett saga has deepened their anger.

NIFL and Ards have formally raised the issue of Garrett playing while suspended on Saturday and the Irish FA Disciplinary Committee are now likely to award Niall Currie's side a 3-0 win and hand them the three points.

According to the IFA website, Garrett was to serve a one-match ban, effective from last Monday, October 24.

The Ports face a charge of being in breach of NIFL's Rule 40a - Penalty for Playing Unregistered or Ineligible Players - which states: "Any club playing an ineligible player or players in any match under the auspices of the NIFL Premiership shall be fined, in the case of each Premiership club a sum of £500 per player for the first offence and £50 for subsequent offences involving the same player.

"In addition should the match(es) in question result in a win for the offending team, or end in a draw, then such points shall be forfeited by the offending club and its opponents awarded three points in respect of that match and a score-line of 3-0 recorded in its favour."

The most disturbing aspect of the sorry tale for Ports fans is that Ards raised the matter of Garrett's eligibility before Saturday's match.

Ports manager Vinny Arkins was told that Garrett was free to play but club officials hadn't realised that the 2015-2016 rules, which saw suspensions applied two weeks after a fifth yellow card, no longer applied as they were changed in the close season and clubs were informed.

The victory at Shamrock Park meant Portadown had wiped out the 12-point deduction imposed before the start of the season for making irregular payments to players. Coleraine were awarded a 3-0 win from the postponed Premiership fixture between the clubs on August 6 after the Ports had been suspended from all football activity for the non-payment of a fine and now it appears likely the mid-Ulster side will suffer another 3-0 loss determined by disciplinary chiefs.

Portadown cannot sign players on professional terms until June 2017 and, as their Premiership survival mission looks set to suffer a fresh setback, apologies aren't going to cut it with the frustrated faithful.

• Two outstanding Danske Bank Premiership matches - Glenavon v Crusaders and Ballymena United v Linfield - have been rearranged for next Tuesday, November 8 (7.45pm).

Belfast Telegraph

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