Portadown have been cleared of making undisclosed payments to midfielder Tim Mouncey - and the club are ready to fight their case involving another player, striker Gary Twigg, in court.
The Ports were hit with a £10,000 fine and a ban on signing professional players until the end of next season by the Irish FA's Disciplinary Committee earlier this month when they were deemed guilty of playing Mouncey while he was registered as an amateur and for payments made to Twigg outside of the contract that is lodged with the IFA.
Half of that fine has been wiped out by the IFA Appeals Board, after they deemed that there was no proof of payments made to Mouncey, but the signing ban remains.
In a statement, the club's board said: "We contest that the punishment to the club for this minor oversight is wholly disproportionate. We will consult with our legal advisors as to the options available to challenge the severity of the punishment."
The case concerning Twigg centres around a 14-week period during the close season where the Ports claim that he was employed outside of his playing duties, as a club ambassador.
The contract lodged with the IFA detailed a payment of £350 per week to the Scottish striker for 38 weeks of the season and it was only via a voluntary submission that the payments for the remaining 14 weeks of the year were revealed.
While Portadown admitted that their non-disclosure of those payments did breach rules, they argued that this did not amount to bringing the game into disrepute.
The Appeals Board’s statement read: “It is our view that, in the case of Gary Twigg, Portadown did not act with the transparency and integrity which was expected of them.
“Accordingly, we have no hesitation in finding that by not detailing the additional payments to Twigg in his contract that Portadown not only breached Rule 38(a) but also brought the game of football into disrepute.
“The offence committed by Portadown must be treated as a serious breach of sporting integrity. It is our view that, at the point of signing the contract, Portadown deliberately concealed the fact that Gary Twigg was to be paid an extra 14 weeks’ wages.”
Portadown have consistently protested their innocence since the Belfast Telegraph broke the news seven weeks ago that they were under investigation regarding undisclosed payments.
The club remain perplexed that attempts to clear their name actually resulted in them being punished and that the work Twigg carried out in the community was not given the recognition they felt it merited, as well as being critical of the entire Northern Ireland Football League investigation.
The Shamrock Park Board’s statement added: “We find it ironic that having been totally exonerated with regard to the accusation of illegal payments, the club have, in fact, been reprimanded for disclosing payments.
“As was proved, there was never a case to answer with regard to Tim Mouncey. Had the correct level of expertise been employed by NIFL when examining the Salary Protocol Returns, the matter would have gone no further.
“The club pay tribute to the work carried out in cross community activities by Gary Twigg. We are dismayed that having voluntarily submitted details of payments made to Gary to help defray his expenses, the Club have been accused of a serious breach of sporting integrity.
“The only misdemeanour appears to have been that the IFA were not informed of these activities at the correct time.
“We would have expected more support from the IFA with regard to cross-community work in the Portadown area, not to be effectively punished for it.”
In ending their submission the Appeals Board took a somewhat strange step in aiming a bizarre parting shot at Portadown, with a warning to other clubs.
After laying down the punishments of a £5,000 fine and signing embargo until June 2017, the Appeals Board stated: “Portadown and other NIFL clubs would do well to consider the words of Dwight D Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America, when he said that, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office”.