MORTON will pursue Falkirk FC in court for compensation after the Bairns were yesterday fined £60,000 for serious rule breaches in their appointment of Ray McKinnon.

An independent league sub committee had adjudged Falkirk were in the wrong over their pursuit of McKinnon, who sparked uproar when he quit Cappielow at the end of August after just three months in charge.

The Bairns were yesterday fined £60,000 by the SPFL for failing to comply with rules and the Tele understands Ton chiefs will now seek compensation for the controversial loss of their former manager, as well as assistant Darren Taylor and fitness coach Graeme Henderson.

Full details of the case were included in a damning 12-page written decision published yesterday.

The SPFL sub-committee, chaired by an experienced independent solicitor, said McKinnon was not a credible witness, adding that his evidence was ‘particularly unimpressive’.

In a statement, it said: “We consider that there were three flagrant breaches of the rules by Falkirk with regard to inducement, that left Morton without three key employees without notice.”

Falkirk have been ordered to pay £40,000 of the fine immediately to the charitable arm of the league body, the SPFL Trust.

The remaining £20,000 is suspended until February 2021 and will only be payable if the club commits another rule breach.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against the club, Falkirk still insist they have done nothing wrong and are considering an appeal.

The SPFL probe, which began in November, heard from several key witnesses, including Morton chairman Crawford Rae, chief executive Warren Hawke, Falkirk chair Margaret Lang and McKinnon himself.

The panel said: “Mr McKinnon was particularly unimpressive in his evidence and we were unable to accept that he was a sufficiently credible witness for his evidence to be relied upon by us.”

The Falkirk boss and his assistant were said to have been ‘less than satisfied’ with the terms of their one-year Ton contracts and under the impression they could leave at any time without compensation, instructing agent Jim Sherry to look for other jobs.

But the panel said: “It was plain to us that Mr McKinnon and Mr Taylor were, along with Mr Sherry, fundamentally misunderstanding the terms of the contract entered into between them and Greenock Morton FC.”

The hearing heard that Falkirk had already made an approach for McKinnon about their vacant manager’s job before an official request was made to Ton chairman Mr Rae, who reluctantly agreed to allow McKinnon only to speak to the club about the possibility.

Mr Rae also made it clear he would be seeking £100,000 compensation should he subsequently decide to let him go.

It emerged during the tribunal that Bairns chair Mrs Lang, who is a lawyer, was unaware of league procedures.

The panel said: “She didn’t know the terms of the SPFL rules that were of relevance but said that a lot happens in football that is not contained in the rules.”

They added: “She conceded that she had not asked Greenock Morton for permission to offer employment to any of the three individuals.”

The hearing also heard that McKinnon was working on a loan agreement with Rangers to sign striker Zak Rudden for Ton — the player subsequently went to Falkirk — only for the deal to fall through just before the manager quit for the Bairns.

During the evidence, the panel was told McKinnon had requested a meeting with Mr Rae on August 31 and arrived at Parklea ‘with his contract in hand’ — having earlier obtained a copy from Cappielow — and looked ‘agitated’.

He resigned later that evening having been announced as the new Falkirk manager.

His assistant, Taylor, followed suit.

The SPFL sub-committee fined Falkirk £40,000 — the equivalent of a year’s net basic salary for McKinnon at Morton — with an additional £20,000.

They said Falkirk ‘acted naively and/or recklessly and/or deliberately’ in their pursuit of McKinnon, Taylor and Henderson.

Despite the ruling, Falkirk maintain their innocence.
In a statement, the club said: “We remain extremely disappointed with this decision and maintain the view that both ourselves and our management team acted appropriately at all times.

“At present, we are considering our position and will speak with our legal advisors regarding our potential options including appeal.”