Brad Galinson reflects on his first three months as owner of the club.
Let’s go back to December 23rd 2022: Gillingham sit at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two and most bookies have the Kent side as favourites to drop out of the Football League. Then, on the eve of Christmas Eve, takeover whispers become a reality, bringing a wave of optimism and a clear plan: ‘serve the fans’.
Fast-forward to the present day and the fruits of their hard work are tasting pretty sweet. The fans are singing louder, the revamped team have fought themselves away from danger and the words ‘there’s a buzz around the club’ have never been used as much. Did they ever doubt it?
“When we closed the deal we were 24th in the league, you literally couldn’t get lower,” reflected Brad. “There was a bit of trepidation. We were very, very impressed with the people that work here, we knew we going to bring in Kenny (Jackett) and Andy (Hessenthaler), and we just had a leap of faith that we could figure it out.
“Shan and I were a bit nervous coming in, the Yanks coming in from over the Atlantic, but there has been tremendous support, and things on the pitch have gone quite well so far.
“Seeing the Rainham End and the chanting, just the positivity is terrific. It’s a bit embarrassing that it is my name being chanted because I wish I could play down there, but I can’t. Even the social media, the traditional media, it’s been quite supportive and I think everyone in the community wanted the team to succeed. Once the team started to succeed a little bit the reception was so huge that we succeeded more and the reception was even more positive. You know the snowball effect downward, this is the snowball effect upwards. We are defying gravity.
“The catchment area and the history of this club is higher than League Two. We want to aim for promotion or two promotions but equally as important, and they go hand in hand, is that this club needs to get back to being a proud community club. Sponsors, businesses, the fans, the charities, women’s football, men’s football and everyone getting behind that as the club also gets promoted. The idea is to continue what we have started over the last couple on months. We can do this in a lot of ways but it starts on the pitch.”
The experience for female followers is high on the agenda for the Galinsons and Gillingham’s recent partnership with Her Game Too has been a big statement of intent that they wish to make the stadium welcoming for all.
“My wife Shannon, it’s probably her number one priority and passion,” said Brad. “Sport in general has to be more open for both sexes. Having the women’s club here is one part of it but to have everybody come here to feel they can safely watch and enjoy a game is also part of it.
“Having a women’s team is important. Women are half of the people here and they get so much less than half of the resources, the history and the expertise of sport and it’s the same in our country. It’s a constant struggle to get them the resources and ultimately attendance and support. It is not an immediate thing, there is a lot of planning and a lot of conversations.”
The commercial team have also never been busier with stands being renamed, fantastic ticket initiatives being introduced and the Rainham End floor being decked out with TV screens and also banners of past Gills legends... and there is plenty more to come.
“The biggest thing we talked about in the fans forum is the LED digital advertising around the pitch,” said Brad. “We are looking very strongly into that. That is actually a very big deal because, number one, it looks really cool but more importantly it is the only inventory that we have to sell other than boards and sponsorships. When you have a catchment area in Kent that is so large, we want to have a way to say ‘hey, do you want to be a sponsor, there’s little sponsors, medium and big sponsors.’ The LED is a tremendous amount of inventory that we can offer the community.
“The match experience is a lot of things but it is not just when you are at Priestfield, the match experience is, number one, are we entertaining and do we have a quality team on the pitch, but it is also what’s my food like, what does the Rainham End look like, are the kiosks open, what do the queues look like, what do the bathrooms look like, and it’s not just that either, it’s also what’s The Factory like before and after the game, what’s the social media like, what are the press conferences like, what do you do on a Wednesday?
“We have done a little bit and we have had some good success and we are enthused about it but that list is not only long, but it is eternal. You can always be better and you can always deliver a better experience. We serve the fans, the fans don’t serve us. We wouldn’t be here without the fans so we have to continue to make the fans happy and their experience better.”
As starts go, it’s not been a bad one!