Falkirk have been fined up to £60,000 over their pursuit of manager Ray McKinnon from Ladbrokes Championship rivals Morton.
A committee convened by the Scottish Professional Football League found Falkirk guilty of inducing employees to breach a contract with another club and approaching another club’s employees without consent.
Falkirk will have to pay £40,000 immediately to the SPFL Trust as well paying £3,000 costs to the league, with an additional £20,000 fine suspended for two years.
McKinnon and assistant Darren Taylor, along with head of performance Graeme Henderson, walked out on Morton to join Falkirk on August 31 last year, three months after arriving at the Greenock club.
The tribunal committee – which included two solicitors along with SPFL board member and Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows – reported that McKinnon and Taylor were “fundamentally misunderstanding” of the terms of their fixed one-year contracts with Morton.
The decision added: “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, even against the balance of probabilities.”
The committee heard that McKinnon’s agent, Jim Sherry, had contacted Falkirk three days before the Bairns board approached Morton.
Cappielow chairman Crawford Rae demanded a six-figure sum in compensation for any potential departure but McKinnon was appointed Falkirk manager hours later and handed in his resignation without an agreement between the clubs.
However, Falkirk maintain that neither they nor McKinnon did anything wrong.
A club statement read: “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 advisers regarding our potential options including appeal.”
Falkirk sit bottom of the Championship with Morton four places and 11 points ahead of them.