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Chairman Paul Scally looks ahead to a September restart and Gillingham fans back inside Priestfield in October

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally insists the club is safe and is now looking ahead to a new season.

The Gills are due to return to training this week, almost five months since being together as a group. It’s been a tough ride for the club but Mr Scally believes they have every reason to be optimistic for the future.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally looking ahead to a brighter future Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally looking ahead to a brighter future Picture: Ady Kerry

Speaking to supporters during the club’s first ever virtual end of season awards, he said: “Last season was a fantastic season, although it was shortened. We are in the most challenging times, probably in any of our lifetimes, but your club is safe. We aren’t in bad shape.

“We haven’t had any income since February 29 of course, when we played AFC Wimbledon at home, but in the last six to eight weeks we have spent time well. We are making the ship lighter, we are leaner, we are keener and we are now very excited.

“We are starting to feel like we are going to be playing football again, thank God.

“Now for the first time since March 13, when we all left Priestfield quickly, I feel like we are going to be playing football again soon, which is what we all want to be doing.

“We have to have some income, I am told there is a potential package on the table that the Football League have negotiated. We haven’t got the details yet but I am sure that is quite close.

“We are spending our money very carefully, very wisely, we are protecting our position and I want to thank everyone out there for their support. Sponsors have been fantastic, we have had people offering us loans, bonds, sponsorship packages for next season already, and season ticket holders are still buying season tickets.

“Let’s hope we can conquer this virus, by all of us doing it the right way, working together, and that as soon as possible we can be playing football normally.

“I have no doubt that the new team of 2020/21 is going to be even more exciting than the last.”

Fans will be locked out of the first few games but there are hopes supporters can be back inside stadiums from October. The club are preparing to open Priestfield back up as soon as they can.

Mr Scally said: “(On Friday) I had a meeting with the chairmen of League 1 and the Football League. September 12th is now looking good for our start back, initially behind closed doors.

“I have had a meeting with our safety advisory group and we are looking at the protocols for crowds coming back into the stadium.

"October 3 is the date we are looking to bring some fans back in and it will be limited to start with, on a trial, possibly 1,500-2,000 and will probably go out to season ticket holders first. Hopefully if all of our protocols work and everyone observes them then we can increase the crowd over the course of October and into November.”

The Gills have started the rebuild for a new season, with the first summer signing now in the door.

Mr Scally hopes they can build on that 10th place finish in the curtailed 2019/20 season.

He said: “The amount of support and messages we have had to try and keep the club going has been fantastic and we have been working very hard for the last six weeks, overcoming lots of challenges, to try and keep the ship going, trying to get enough funds to pay the bills.

“We finished 10th, a great season and a fantastic finish. I do think if the season had of carried on we would have got into the play-offs, I am confident of that.

“It’s disappointing we finished (early). It was probably the right decision for every club in the league because of problems with finances but it does inspire us to try and do better next year. Some of the players have left us and we wish them well in their future roles but the cream of the club is still with us.”

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