Today saw the latest in the long line of Paul Scally statements to the local press, with the club around 11 million in debt and second bottom in League One. It follows that:-
“I had a positive and important meeting with the bank and they are still supportive of me.
“I don’t know why supporters are talking about administration because that’s absolute nonsense.
“It’s under control and it’s not affecting our performances on the pitch. We’re working our way out of it.
“We’re pushing forward on the new stadium and are having critical negotiations with the bank. The club have no long term future unless we move to a new stadium.”
Now I personally haven’t ever had a lot of time for the chairman on a personal level, but I was extremely grateful for him stepping in to save the club in 1995, although subsequently it appears that Tony and Val Smith were more instrumental in the salvation that has been widely advertised, and for overseeing the club’s rise to the promised land by 2000.
But if it were to suddenly emerge that PDP Scally was a fully paid up member of the Magic Circle, I would not be surprised such has been the extensive use of smoke and mirrors in communicating with the loyal supporters of Gillingham FC. Without making this article too litigious, it’s time to start debunking the myths.
- The bank will naturally be very supportive of Scally. As they would of any client that pays them around £700,000 a year without them really having to lift a finger to do anything at all. In fact, the suits at the Bank of Scotland are probably rubbing their hands together all the while that Scally remains in control of the club. Things will only get uncomfortable for the bank if the level of debt exceeds the value of the assets it is secured upon (namely the ground) and they force Scally to put the club into administration, in which case the negative publicity they receive for ‘forcing a club out of business’ may cause some public backlash.
- Supporters are talking about administration because it’s a reality. If reports are correct that Grant Thornton insolvency experts are investigating the finances of the club, it’s real. If creditors aren’t being paid, it’s real. We know already that electricity bills haven’t been paid, then it’s a reasonable assumption to wonder whether tax bills are being paid. When you add to this that Scally and Spokes have already been directors of companies that have been wound up, it makes for worrying times. It’s some time since my own accountancy training, but I recall that it only takes a certain percentage of creditors to apply for the company (GFC) to be wound up, and I am also surprised that directors of failed companies can crop up in charge of another without any intervention from the Office of Fair Trading.
- I am not so naïve to think that the debt and the performances on the field are directly linked. I am sure that Ronnie Jepson and the players are not involved in the day-to-day finances of the club. However, they are very much interlinked indirectly. No money for players means a lower quality squad, no money means wages not being played, high ticket prices means lower attendances and less vocal support, disgruntled fans booing and chanting for the chairman to leave will affect the players.
- We are not working our way of it. Unless you consider that selling a clapped out van on the official site is a coherent business plan. We are fucked, maybe not this year, but definitely within five years. We shouldn’t even be in ‘it’ because any businessman with a bit of nous wouldn’t spend money he doesn’t have unless he is certain that he will recoup it. This is where things such as market research come into play. The much-maligned ITV Digital money was not to blame. Some of the threads on the message boards have come with great analogies about spending lottery jackpots before buying the tickets, and we laughed. But the man in control of our football club subscribes to that business model!
- I could go on for pages and pages about the overspend on the Medway Stand. Clubs can build new stadia for £9 million. I applaud the idea to diversify the income streams of the club; I despair at their execution. Simply stated, brash Americanisms like ‘Rock Cafes’ don’t thrive in residential areas – better to go for a more understated restaurant/bar; banqueting and conferencing facilities are only as much use as the interest in them. North Kent is not the service industry powerhouse that springs to mind when thinking of conferencing. To succeed would take a very powerful commercial team (none at present) and far more parking facilities than the surrounding area can provide.
- A new stadium would be nice. It might solve some of the problems of being situated in a residential area. However, how necessary is it? Scally seems to hammer on about grandiose plans for all-singing all-dancing 25,000 all seater stadia with casinos, ice rinks and dolphin shows. Gillingham have never had 25,000 people in their own stadium. The two trips to Wembley cannot be treated as representative – the people of Kent went, not the supporters of Gillingham. If we are going to move then a realistic capacity of 8,000 to 10,000 is what we should aim for. I can wager no market research has been done on the ancillary facilities. A smaller ground could open up more potential sites in Medway. Moving out of the borough could kill the club too. Personally, it would be more inconvenient if the Gills moved as right now public transport links to the ground are in place and it’s easy to get to. I also fear that any stadium in which Scally is involved in constructing will be cheap and nasty, and with a massive overspend.
In short, Scally’s statement is contemptuous. He hasn’t even bothered to back up his claims with paper thin arguments like usual. The final part is a thinly veiled threat – ‘let me move to a new ground or I’ll take my ball home’. He’s demonstrating the same megalomania that Tony Blair is showing in clinging to power at this very moment. The time to go graciously is long past, now is the time to go before it gets really nasty.