PORTADOWN will enter into player negotiations this summer in the knowledge that around one third of the current salary budget must be cut in line with Irish Football Association regulations.
The Ports have provided the main Carling Premiership challenge to Linfield this season and remain in contention for European football.
However, those connected to the club are now facing up to a period of tough negotiations to keep this current group together as seven players prepare to become free agents.
Plans to build on the progress enjoyed this season will be hampered by the unavoidable financial reduction required under Salary Cost Protocol rules which release 60 per cent of total allowable income towards player wages.
The process was introduced last summer to protect clubs from over-spending and, as such, Portadown officials have been working hard to both balance the books and prevent the most talented squad in recent seasons from falling apart.
“Garry Breen, Brian Gartland, Neil McCafferty, Ross Redman, Matthew Tipton, Richard Clarke and Wesley Boyle are all coming to the end of contracts so it is a case of attempting to keep players who have served this club extremely well,” said Ronnie Stinson, the Portadown board’s director of football. “However, there is also the reality of our financial situation and the Salary Cost Protocol dictates we must meet our wage budget.
“Unfortunately, that demands a reduction of around one third off what is a substantial wage bill.
“We still have European football as a target for this season and certainly that money will be crucial to our future budget plans.
“However, the short-term issue is on bringing the existing squad into line based on the budget set out last summer.
“We want to keep supporters in the picture as much as possible and emphasis how everyone involved in this process is doing everything possible to safeguard our future prospects.
“We have a few options in the pipeline and could be in a position to announce something over the next few weeks.
“However, as it stands, we have a bottom line based on our income which will force significant cuts before anything can move forward.”
A legacy of impressive contracts supported, in the main, by one or two individuals has left Portadown facing a difficult first phase of negotiations with free agents under the Salary Cost Protocol system. The Ports this season had to honour existing contract terms but must now persuade players coming out of deals that Shamrock Park remains the best option despite the revamped wage structure.
“We have a loyal fanbase so remain confident supporters will continue to back the club over the turnstiles, however, dwindling gates across the game take a toll,” said Stinson. “Hard work put in by the members of our sponsorship committee and fund-raising support from the Portadown Supporters’ Society can only strengthen our income figures for the next two-year salary cycle.
“We do not want to discuss what may or may not happen in terms of individuals but can only stress the fact that all decisions will be made in the best interests of the club’s future.”