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Scally dispute: Stars may appeal to League

GILLINGHAM chairman Paul Scally's dispute with three of the club's top players could end up before the Football League.

Brendan Batson, deputy chief executive of the players' union, the PFA, confirmed today he had been made aware of the situation at Priestfield. He said: “If the three players involved have been fined and disciplined then they have the right of appeal and that appeal would go before a Football League panel.

He added: “We hope this problem can be sorted out very quickly for the good of the players and the club.”

Mr Scally fined and disciplined skipper and Player of the Year Paul Smith, Chris Hope and Barry Ashby for ignoring his instruction not to attend Saturday's Gillingham Independent Supporters' Club's Player of the Year awards.

Smith won the award for an unprecedented third time while Hope was runner-up. Ashby attended to collect the third place award on behalf of top scorer Marlon King. All three returned immediately to Priestfield for the club's own Player of the Year award which Smith also collected.

Mr Scally said he took the action for what he described as a serious breach of procedures. He has declined to reveal the size of the fines but confirmed that the three would be available for Sunday's final match of the season at Watford.

But as the squad prepared for the match supporters are wondering if the match will mark the farewell appearances of Smith, Hope and Ashby in Gillingham colours.

Smith, who is regarded as one of the club's finest midfield players, has spent the last two days talking over his future with partner Louise.

Agent Andrew Mills, who represents both Smith and Ashby, said: “Obviously I'm aware of the situation but at this moment it would not be prudent to comment."

The pair signed four-year contracts last year and are among Gillingham's highest paid players. Hope, who has not missed a match since signing for a bargain £260,000 from Scunthorpe July, 2000, is equally upset. He has a year to run on his contract to run.

Mr Scally followed up his decision to discipline the players by threatening to put the club up for sale in 30 days.

He has challenged the independent supporters' club to find the finance and backers to take over the club in this time. If they do not come forward with an offer, and the Gills chairman continues to feel the same as he does now, he says he will put the club up for sale.

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