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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
UKIP sponsors Championship match
Gillingham FC's Priestfield Stadium
Gillingham are fighting against relegation from the Championship
Members of the UK Independence Party will be at Gillingham FC as the party sponsors the club's Saturday home game.

The sponsorship for the Gillingham versus Burnley fixture was arranged by Mark Croucher, UKIP's communications director and a Gills fan himself.

He said it was organised "before the election was discussed", but added UKIP "are not complaining about the timing".

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally admitted the sponsorship is all about revenue for the Kent club.

'Publicity always vital'

A small group of UKIP candidates and senior members of the party will enjoy corporate hospitality at Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium.

Mr Croucher said that arrangements for the sponsorship were begun in August and September 2004.

But he admitted the announcement of a general election on Tuesday was a bonus, saying "election publicity is always vital especially for the smaller parties".

Mr Scally insisted the sponsorship is "a football issue... not a political issue".

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally is unhappy with the PFA loan
Club chairman Paul Scally said the sponsorship was a football issue

"I mean these guys are football fans, they support Gillingham, they wanted to come and support Gillingham in a way that they could and help us in a way they could," he said.

Sponsorship packages at Gillingham FC usually include an advert in the matchday programme, but a UKIP one has been withdrawn after pressure from the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

The association claims UKIP's views on immigration are not compatible with football players travelling freely between clubs across Europe.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "The football game in England is very cosmopolitan and Gillingham themselves have foreign players."

UKIP's Mark Croucher rejected that argument and accused the PFA of "political posturing".

Gillingham FC is also looking into whether Football Association regulations prevent clubs from carrying adverts for political parties.

Mr Scally added: "The whole thing's daft and it's been blown out of proportion a bit."



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