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Jun 27, 2012

Gills chairman hits back at racism claim

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally has hit back at allegations by former Gills striker Mark McCammon that the Kent club racially discriminated against him.

• Racism claim against Gillingham

McCammon has taken the League Two club to an industrial tribunal this week, claiming he was released from Priestfield after being subjected to discrimination.

The 33-year-old claims he and other black players at Gillingham were treated differently from white players. He is suing the club and Scally for race discrimination, breach of contract, unfair dismissal and failure to pay him.

Scally told the tribunal in Ashford, Kent, that Gillingham had not had to deal with an allegation of racism in 18 years, saying he was "absolutely confident" there was no racism at the club.

He suggested McCammon had "manufactured" the allegations to justify storming into then manager Andy Hessenthaler's office on November 30, 2010 and accusing him of racial discrimination.

That happened after McCammon and his two housemates, who are also black, were ordered to attend Priestfield in heavy snow when other players were not required to.

Scally told the tribunal: "I'm absolutely confident and convinced that there is no racism at the club. The incident on November 30, where Mr McCammon said he made some allegations of racism were, I believe, made maliciously and were without foundation."

He added: "We take racism seriously as a football club. I didn't take [McCammon's claims] seriously as I considered it to be a vindictive claim of racial discrimination. I considered it to be a malicious, vindictive, wild and aggressive comment, not worthy of consideration as racism."

On Tuesday, the tribunal heard that McCammon's witness statement claimed Gillingham tried to "frustrate him out" by refusing to pay private medical bills to help him regain fitness following injury.

He said was instead offered the choice of undergoing the same treatment on the NHS - a move he described as "completely out of character" for a Football League club - and claimed a white player had been flown to Dubai for treatment by a physiotherapist at the club's expense.

He alleged that Gillingham tried to sabotage his career after talks about a move with 11 different clubs collapsed. "It soon became known that the chairman had been interfering,'' he said in his witness statement.

McCammon signed for Gillingham on a three-year deal in 2008 and was the club's highest-paid player on £2,500 a week. By his third season, they had been relegated to League Two and he had suffered an injury that needed an operation.

"Effectively, he [the chairman] preferred to offer me some money to get out of the contract rather than have to pay for my injury and help me back to recuperation," his statement said. He said he was "stalled for as long as possible" and was eventually offered money to terminate the deal.

The tribunal continues.