ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw reports on the change of leadership at the Gills
The new owner of Gillingham FC, Brad Galinson, has pledged to ‘serve the fans’ and act as a ‘custodian’ for the football club.
The American businessman has been speaking for the first time since taking a controlling stake in the League Two side at the end of last year.
The 53-year-old, from Florida, told ITV News Meridian: “One of the things I think owners lose sight of is that we serve the fans, the fans do not serve us. We are literally here as custodians of the football club for the fans.
“I’m a custodian for a very important football club, with a huge rich history. We’ll keep it sustainable, hopefully we’ll start to move up and get promoted. But we’ll have a football club for the community.”
The Gills are currently at the bottom of the EFL table, and at risk of relegation. The new chairman says avoiding relegation is his priority, with all other issues secondary.
Gillingham's status as the only league football club in Kent is something that attracted the new majority shareholder's investment.
“The catchment area – its 75,000 business, its massive fanbase – is very unique in English football. A lot of the big cities have three, four, even nine clubs that carve up the city,” Galinson added.
“This is the only EFL team in all of Kent, so the potential there is immense. For us, we thought with a little TLC, a little bit of resources, it can really come back to what it has been in the past.”
Asked if he had the money required to invest in new players to prevent relegation, Galinson said: “The budget is what you need to succeed and stay in the EFL.”
Four new players have signed for The Gills since the start of the new year, including George Lapslie and Oli Hawkins.
Galinson, a Florida-based property tycoon, says he plans to split his time between the UK and US.
Asked about the future of the Medway club at Priestfield Stadium, he said his “short term” focus was to “improve the fan experience” at the ageing ground but that after “a promotion or two” they could start seriously discussing “moving to a new stadium”.
Striking a cautious note, Galinson said the turnaround of the club was likely to be a “two to five year process”.
Fan groups have been supportive of the takeover, after years of poor performance under the previous chairman and owner, Paul Scally.
Brad Galinson's full interview discussing his priorities for the club with ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw
Chairman of the Gills Independent Supporters Club, Neil Klee, said: “We seem to have been extremely lucky with who has come along and – let’s be honest – saved us.
“We want some success back. The five years we had in the Championship were great, the attendances were great, the atmosphere was great. And we’ve seen a little bit of that back in the last ten days.”
Football journalist and Gills fan, Josh Keeble-Wells, said Galinson has “put his money where his mouth is” by bringing in a string of new signings and is proving “a breath of fresh air”.
Brad Galinson and his wife, Shannon Galinson, are due to hold a fans’ forum at Priestfield Stadium on Thursday, 19th January. The club’s chief operating officer, Paul Fisher, and first-team manager Neil Harris are also due to attend.