This is not quite a farewell from me, albeit that may well be the ultimate conclusion of the next few months, says Gillingham chairman Paul Scally

Sunday 07th August 2022

GILLINGHAM have announced the appointment of Paul Fisher – who will join the board of directors as co-chairman and CEO of the relegated League Two club and will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

A club statement said: “Born less than a mile from Priestfield Stadium, Paul understands the culture of the area and indeed the significance of the football club to Medway and beyond, not least of all he fully recognises the huge potential the club has, being the only professional club in the county of Kent, all qualities which will be invaluable as the club progresses.”

Chairman Paul Scally said in a statement: “I have been at this football club for over 27 years, a significant part of my life, making me probably the longest serving chairman/owner in the EFL, a period which has seen great change for the club and indeed professional football in particular, many challenges but also many great occasions.

“I’d like to thank our great supporters, sponsors, stakeholders and importantly staff for their huge support and loyalty to myself and the business during that long period. I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it.

"As, effectively, a one man band, I have generally carried the burden of responsibility on my own shoulders for this entire period, not through choice for sure, but through circumstance, in fact, despite many efforts over the years, I have never been able to persuade any Kent based supporters or business people to help with the task financially, at least to the level required, to take this club on an upward journey and be part of what I have always believed, and still believe is possible, i.e achieving its huge potential and operating in the higher levels of our football structure.

"It was that same lack of local help which led to me coming to this club in the first place in 1995, a football loving Millwall fan, a Kent resident, a Gillingham outsider who didn’t want to see this club fail and go out of business, and until recently it’s fair to say my love, passion and commitment to this club has never been in doubt.

"The past two years have been particularly punishing. I have worked non-stop to ensure the club came through the Covid period, faced challenges the like of which I have never experienced, both from a business and personal perspective, seen hardship on a huge scale and experienced great sadness with the loss of dear friends, some of them great fans, however what I never expected, nor in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever be subject to, was the relentless level of extreme personal abuse I have been subjected to from a small, mindless but vocal group of individuals who have generally used the ‘safety’ of  social media and other forums to pursue their hateful and malicious campaigns, sadly often influencing those that are susceptible and vulnerable to these media, and who have themselves been caught up in the frenzy that has persued.

"This abuse has been unacceptable, unfair, malicious, painful and without merit, no one individual should ever be subjected to such abuse, especially when simply getting on with their job in hand, in their place of work. Those involved are shameful and should look closely in a mirror, they certainly do not represent the views of normal decent supporters, nor, in my view, society as a whole.

"I am one human being and unfortunately this level of abuse and intrusion into my private space has had a huge effect on me personally, both mentally and physically, it has undoubtedly had some effect on the business and club, but more importantly it has affected my family and close friends, something I am unable, nor prepared to reconcile, despite the help and support of many that also care about this great club.

"I have therefore decided, (hence the decision behind the appointment of Paul Fisher to the board), to take an extended break away from football and this great club, a period whereby I can reflect on what my priorities are, a period whereby I can establish how damaged my love for this club and football generally has become, and a period whereby I can rest and focus on my own life, family and other important matters.

"The running of a football club is high profile, 24/7 and 365 days a year, it is a high scrutiny job and I have always accepted an owner will often be in a no win situation, such is the beast, but I have always had the passion and fight needed to do the job, to stand shoulder to shoulder with our support base and to be proud of what we are and have achieved together. I have never shied from making those tough cdecisions, always in my mind in the best interests of the club first and foremost.

"There is no question that right now, I am physically and mentally exhausted from the efforts, stress, strain and worries of the past couple of years, coupled with the personal abuse effects, and need a break to recharge my batteries.

"Myself and Paul fully intend to continue exploring options regarding the long term future of the club, and indeed we are currently considering the possibilities of forming a strong and credible board of directors capable of continuing the journey, should external investment or new ownership not be an option.

"One thing we will not do is allow the club to further its journey with anyone who does not possess the appropriate credentials, nor have the best interests of the club at heart, indeed over the past couple of years there have been a number of ‘chancers’ who have touted credibility, but whom in fact have been everything but suitable to take on a club of this magnitude. Our supporters would expect no less from me after all these years.

"I have every confidence in the work Neil Harris and his team are doing with the rebuilding process, not easy to recruit the right individuals and build a new team in such a short space of time but the footballing side is in good hands and it was nice to get our first win of the season yesterday with such a solid performance, sadly I was not in the stadium to witness it, albeit I watched from afar.

"Relegation was painful for all of us that care about this club. I have taken it very badly and with personal responsibility, but thankfully the spirit within the club is high and positive, and I know everyone will work as hard as possible in trying to get the team initially back into League One, and then into the Championship at some stage thereafter.

"This is not quite a farewell from me, albeit that may well be the ultimate conclusion of the next few months, I do hope there is still a flame deep down, one that can re-ignite with the help of those closest to me, and with the help of others externally, but time will be the greatest judge of that, certainly if it is the end it’s fair to say it was never the way I expected to see the final curtain.

"In the meantime, I would urge each and everyone of you to unite behind Neil, Paul, the players and staff, hold out the hand of compassion to those that have damaged the club in the past, if they ever were genuine fans maybe they deserve a second chance, focus on all that has been good within the club over the years, remember all the good times had, and indeed think about all the good times to be had, and continue the journey we all know is possible. This club is bigger than any of us, it has a tradition and great history, and it deserves the chance to go again.

"I will be doing whatever I am capable of behind the scenes to support where and if needed, I will do my work quietly and privately and hopefully we can all see the benefits of our hard work in the days, months and years ahead.

"Thank you all for the years of trust, support and happiness.”

Gillingham are in 12th place in the League Two table, with three points from their first two games, having beaten Rochdale 1-0 at home yesterday.

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