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Alan's Away Day Angst
By: Rob Sedgwick
ARDENT Gillingham supporter Alan Liptrott will be visiting Blundell Park on Tuesday night to watch his local side play the Mariners, as he does with every Gillingham match - except at home. Bizarrely, Alan is banned from attending all home games at Gillingham's own Priestfield Stadium!
The reason for the ban is not any crimes or misdemeanours committed inside the Kent club's stadium in the past, but for organising a travel club and setting up a web site about his favourite football team - Gillingham FC. The club, who have an average home attendance of 8,500, objected so strongly to Alan's web site and members-only coach trips to away games, that they obtained a restriction order banning him from all home matches, and have attempted to discredit the Gills Supporters Club in their matchday programmes.
The supporters club, which Alan helped found, and of which he was chairman since 1994 until he was forced to resign in the summer, had used the domain name www.gillinghamfc.co.uk from which to publish their web site. Like many football clubs Gillingham decided to set up an official web site long after some of their fans had had the same idea, and objected to the Alan's organisation's use of the name. Although this domain name, or Internet address, no longer points to the Gills Supporters web site - which is now part of the Rivals network - the football club still refuse to lift their ban on one of their most loyal and passionate supporters from watching their games as a paying customer!
The Gillingham chairman Paul Scally believes (without offering any proof) that the Gills Supporters Club, which provides fans of the Kent side with news and rumours on their team and a Message Board on which they can air their views, is drawing attention and "hits" away from their official site. Like all the other sites on the Rivals network, gillsconnect.com is a place which is independent from the club, and clearly labelled as an unofficial fans web site with no ties with the company Gillingham FC.
Mr Scally's apparent paranoia about any source of information about Gillingham other than the "official" one this week, in a move which would have been quite at home in the former Soviet Union, extended the ban to stop the local evening paper Medway Today from attending home games. Scally has also written to all Division One clubs stating that Gills manager Andy Hessenthaler will not be attending the after-match press conference if the Medway Today reporter attends. The matter is currently being looked into by the football authorities.
Alan and his friends will be setting off at around lunchtime to make the long journey from Gillingham to Cleethorpes by coach and have arranged to provide for free Grimsby's finest fish & chips from Josh's Fish Bar & Restaurant (below) on Cleethorpe Road, just along from Blundell Park, to everyone travelling on the bus!
The article continues in Part Two.
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