Ports left reeling by IFA ruling

Pat McGibbon. Pic by Pacemaker.
Pat McGibbon. Pic by Pacemaker.
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Portadown’s season has been placed in turmoil - just days before the first whistle of the Danske Bank Premiership kick-off.

An emergency meeting of the Irish Football Association disciplinary committee last night opted to uphold a “suspension of football activities” on the Ports in spite of an appeal by the Shamrock Park club.

That ruling - in accordance with Article 9.3 of the IFA disciplinary code over “non-payment of disciplinary fines” - has resulted in the postponement of the scheduled visit to Coleraine on Saturday - the opening day of the new domestic season.

Portadown’s home game next Wednesday against Ballinamallard United will still go ahead but club officials now face an anxious wait on the Northern Ireland Football League’s ruling over a decision to award the weekend points to Coleraine.

Portadown have already had to prepare for the season with a 12-point deduction in place due to issues relating to Peter McMahon’s contract status, with a proposed IFA hearing planned for tonight now postponed.

The ruling marks the latest punishment imposed on Portadown following a string of hearings in front of the IFA disciplinary committee.

A transfer sanction on the addition of players on professional terms remains in place until June 2017.

A statement late last night from the IFA confirmed the verdict, and how “having considered points made by Portadown FC, and taking into account Article 9.3 of the Irish FA’s Disciplinary Code as well as being cognisant of Portadown’s Premiership game against Coleraine scheduled for this Saturday, they were not persuaded to exercise discretion in this case”.

The suspension has been dated from Thursday, July 28 but today’s payment of the full figure - understood to be around £6,000 - secures the green light for the Ballinamallard fixture at Shamrock Park.

It is understood Portadown’s defence included evidence of an electronic payment into IFA accounts and a written agreement confirming a scheduled deadline for the first £3,000 “before the start of the season”.

The repercussions of this verdict could prove significant towards strained relations between Portadown fans and the Board of Directors. News of the original suspension sparked a joint statement on behalf of three of the club’s four major supporters’ groups calling for an “urgent meeting”.

An emergency meeting of the Board of Directors will take place today to review the situation.

Ports manager Pat McGibbon must now attempt to renew focus within the playing camp.

“We can only prepare for the game on Wednesday but obviously the primary concern at present is the points situation and whatever decision NIFL make regarding the Coleraine match,” said McGibbon. “We hope for clarity on that matter as quickly as possible but I will certainly get the players together at training and do what I can to keep the positive momentum built up over pre-season.

“Another three-point deduction on top of the 12 would be a major hammer blow.”

Coleraine may ultimately benefit on the league table with three points but directors have moved quickly to ease the financial setback from Saturday’s loss of revenue by organising a fun day.