Published: 06:00, 02 July 2020
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally believes they will be better positioned than others when they return from the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Scally has been celebrating 25 years at the helm this week and is facing one of his biggest challenges since taking over the club in 1995 as he looks to keep the Gills afloat.
He’s overcome the ITV Digital crisis - one that cost the club millions in lost revenue - and believes the club will be fit to fight again when a date to resume is announced. The club hope that is imminent.
He said: “We are using this shutdown period wisely. We are not sitting down moping or moaning about our bad luck. We are just getting ready for when we sail again.
“I think ITV was probably a bigger problem for me. This pandemic is so big and so international we are almost passengers on a journey.
“We are actually in a better position than many because our cost-base has been conservative. It’s not been low, it has been appropriate for the business.
“The fact that others have played roulette and rolled the dice on many occasions and run up huge costs and overheads and are now suffering as a result of that is not my problem really.
“I listen to other chairman and stake holders, they are panicking, they are in trouble, their bills are significant with no income and they are all moaning. It is a bit like, ‘what do you expect?’ When you go to Vegas and play the tables, as they have all been doing, you are not necessarily always going to win.
“There is one League 1 club who have an overhead of about £600,000 a month with no income and that is probably 10 times more than ours at the moment.
“We will be lighter, keener, slimmer, leaner, fitter. I think people on board will all be focussed on the journey ahead and I think we could actually go further.
“I think in every aspect we will be in a stronger position, physically, mentally, strategically, we will be in good shape, we are just not quite sure yet when we will be sailing.
“We know it isn’t going to be in the next couple of months, that’s for sure, so I know I have one or two months to finish what I am doing here."
One of the tasks the club are undertaking is a deep cleanse of the stadium, with volunteers giving a helping hand.
The chairman said: “We have had fantastic support from supporter, who have understood the position we have been in and they have not been demanding their money back, they have been very tolerant and understanding. That is typical of the supporters.
“The majority know that what I am doing is for the best of the club.”
The club have yet to announce details of what will happen to season tickets that were held for the curtailed 2019/20 campaign. There were five homes games not played - six if you include a game against Bury. They were chucked out of the league in the early part of the season.
Mr Scally said: “We have been so busy, trying to restructure the business and get it onto a sounder footing, that we haven’t been able to focus on a number of areas and I guess we won’t be able to focus on until we are sailing again.
“It is not that they are being ignored, it is just that we have been flat out, seven days a week. There is an immense amount of work being done.”
Keeping the club afloat is his overriding task and that has, and will, lead to some tough calls. Losing the Gillingham Ladies team was criticised in some quarters but Mr Scally won’t make apologies over cutting costs at this time.
He said: “I have seen comments in reference to ladies football and the team not being continued and various other things but frankly I have had to disregard those things. Those people don’t realise what is involved in running a football club.
“My main objective is to make sure the club survives. I will make whatever decisions I have to make.
“Unfortunately ladies football, at this moment of time, is a resource and cash drain and I have to get rid of all resource and cash drains as best I can. It doesn’t mean to say I am against ladies football, it doesn’t mean I am against youth development, or against anything, but at the moment they have to be overboard.
“It is not to say they won’t be coming back in the future but at this moment of time it is not part of the road map. I think most people understand that.
“The ladies team was very important to us, as are all the young girls teams, including the RTC (Regional Talent Club), but unfortunately they are a cash negative. There is no significant support from the Football Association for ladies football, as there should be, but that’s not my argument, I just have to keep the ship above water and make sure it has a journey to go on.”
Mr Scally, 64, admits he never set out to be chairman of a football club, it was never his goal, but he says he can’t see himself doing anything else now.
He said: “You have to be careful when you make random phone calls! You do that and end up owning a football club. Let that be a lesson.
“It all came about following a random call to one of my friends and then a random call to one of the administrators of the club and that led to me meeting up with them and six weeks later owning a football club.
“It has been a journey, it has been fascinating, with many turns and twists.
“If it was my legacy, not that I am leaving at the moment, I have made history a number of times in various areas. Sometimes you have to look back and realise what an achievement it was to build the stadium. We didn’t actually do a bad job. I think I am quite proud of what we have done.”
He’s the second longest serving chairman in the Football League but has no plans to step away.
He said: “I just want to see the club achieve its potential and I don’t think I have achieved that and therefore I will keep going. Retirement is never going to be in my make-up.
“I can’t imagine what I would do in retirement. That is not on my roadmap.”