Beware of false messengers

As you may be aware the BMH team contribute a regular column to the Medway Messenger. This week’s effort, on the subject of Mr Paul Scally esq, was due to go in Monday’s edition of the paper, but was withheld as they `needed to check it out with our legal guys etc and no-one was available on Sunday`. When it finally did appear in Friday’s edition two things had happened – some major pruning (taking out references to an anti Scally campaign and the Facebook group amongst other things) and a subtle addition which described `unacceptable abuse during the game` – a comment I was neither responsible for nor agree with, and which, in my opinion, alters the whole tone of the piece. What follows is the article in its original form.

A turbulent week at Priestfield may have ended with a much needed victory over Bournemouth, but it is doubtful whether the relationship between Chairman Paul Scally and sections of the Gills support will ever recover. Clearly Scally was stung by the criticism he received during the previous game, and his reaction, although typically bullish, has only further served to fans the flames of disenchantment.

Now let’s get one thing clear – the reported attack against the Gills Chairman, where stones were thrown at his car, will be utterly condemned by all right thinking Gills fans. It was deplorable and unacceptable, and no-one would argue with Scally’s description of the assailants as `scumbags`. However, to use the same language to describe those who chanted `Scally Out` against Crewe is a gross misjudgement from the Gillingham Chairman.

There is a subtle difference between `abuse` and ordinary supporters venting their frustration and anger by chanting `Scally Out`. That is dissent – supporters showing their discontent at the state of our football club in the most effective manner at their disposal. Of course no-one expects the Chairman to like it, but labelling them `scumbags` and effectively tarring them with the same brush as those who threw stones at a car with a three year old child inside is simply outrageous and unacceptable.

Throughout his 13 year tenure as Chairman, Paul Scally has never shied away from controversy, and over the years there have been numerous spats and arguments of which this is just the latest. However, something else that has characterised this period has been the lack of any kind of acceptance for the club’s problems from the Chairman,Chief Executive and Major Shareholder. Always quick to blame others, but never one to shoulder his share of the fault, it is this lack of humility that has not endeared him to many supporters.

A recent local radio interview was typical, when the Gills Chairman commented `We’re all judged by results in football, unfortunately. If we could take away the football, then the club is actually working very hard and doing very well.` Many fans would take issue with that statement on two levels – firstly the fact is that we are a football club, the whole point being what happens on the pitch to draw more fans through the turnstiles and grow the business. Secondly, is it actually a true statement to describe a club which is millions in debt as `doing very well`?

It is obvious from Scally’s recent comments that he does not react well to criticism, but the fact of the matter is that supporters have witnessed a club in decline, on and off the field, for several years, and there is a growing discontent amongst a seemingly growing proportion of the faithful. This has been particularly notable amongst the Gills supporting internet communities, where discontented fans on message boards have spawned an anti-Scally email address and Facebook group. Whilst it could be argued that internet based opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Gill fans in general, it is clear that the Gillingham Chairman is under real pressure from supporters for the first time in his reign. And labelling loyal Gillingham supporters `scumbags` is not exactly going to gain their support.

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