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Address: Redfern Avenue,
Capacity: 11,582 (All-Seater)
Don’t let its infamous away end deter you from visiting, Priestfield Stadium has stood the test of the time to remain a ground perfectly adequate for professional football.
Built way back in 1893, it has been the home of Gillingham Football Club since their formation that same year. Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club also used the ground between 1997 and 1999.
It is unclear as to whether Priestfield Stadium takes it name from the road which originally was in place here, or whether the road took its name from the stadium built upon it. Since 2011 though, it has been otherwise known as MEMS Priestfield Stadium for sponsorship reasons.
Location and Getting There
The ground is based on Redfern Avenue, well within one mile of the centre of Gillingham. Heading due north eventually brings you to the Medway River, heading east brings you to the Royal Navy Cemetery and Monuments, whilst heading due south eventually brings you to Gillingham Park.
It certainly is possible to get to Priestfield Stadium by car, but parking can be a bit of a challenge.
The ground has a car park on its east side, but the roads on the north and south sides (Redfern Avenue and Gordon Road respectively) are for residential use and permits are required to park there.
Tight streets surround the stadium on all four sides and you should be able to find free parking down one of these and then walk a relatively short distance from there to the ground itself. Be sure though to keep an eye out for any potential parking restrictions and not block the front drives of anyone’s houses.
Coming by rail is a much simpler and effective option.
Gillingham train station is just over 0.5 miles west of the stadium and less than 15 minutes walk away.
Outside the Stadium
Whilst it is possible to walk the whole way around the stadium’s exterior, you can only drive along two sides.
One of these is the Main Stand on the northern side of the ground. It’s known as the Medway Stand after the River which runs way out beyond it.
The exterior here has a bright-coloured brickwork base and the upper parts are made up of a combination of brick, glass and large panels with a blue cantilever roof.
In the northwest corner is a large blue gate that acts as the Players’ and Officials’ Entrance. You’ll often find the away team’s coach parked inside and this is the place fans gather if they want to welcome the teams off the coach or get autographs signed.
Continuing along Redfern Avenue brings you to the GFC School Reception and Gillingham’s Club Shop.
Turnstiles are spread regularly along the Medway Stand’s exterior and you can often find a burger van or two on the opposite side of the road, which is mostly take up by private garages.
The entrance nearest to the stadium’s northeast corner is the one for the Factory Bar and Restaurant, one of the Medway Stand’s main premium areas.
There are two ways to get along the East Stand, better known as the Rainham End after the area of Kent out beyond it. You can take the longer route which involves turning right on Toronto Road, past the row of houses, and then right again onto Gordon Road, or you can walk through the large blue gates near to the Factory Bar entrance and walk across the stadium car park.
The Main Entrance to Gillingham’s Reception and Club Offices can be found here, and looks much more stylish in comparison to the rest of the Rainham End’s exterior.
There really isn’t too much to talk about with the stand’s exterior design, though it is worth noting that the Rainham End’s turnstiles are actually along Redfern Avenue. Fans with seats in this stand need to go through the Rainham End turnstiles and then walk around the corner to reach the inner concourse.
The South Stand is known as the Gordon Road Stand after the street that runs directly outside of it.
It has a very basic exterior design, with the bottom half brickwork and the top half blue corrugated iron.
There are no turnstiles along the outer wall, just a couple of exit gates. You can instead find the turnstiles at either end in the southeast and southwest corners. Home fans use the southeast set whilst away fans use the southwest set.
Priestfield’s West Stand is named after Brian Moore, the late English sports commentator and television presenter who was a lifelong Gillingham fan.
In 2003, the original Town End terracing was removed and a temporary stand was put in place, with plans for a brand new Brian Moore Stand set to start the following year. Gillingham however suffered financial problems and there was regular talk about relocating to a newer, more modern home.
As a result of this, that temporary stand has become a much more permanent fixture, and its well known amongst away supporters for being one of the worst in England, especially if it’s in use during the cold winter months.
You can get to the Brian Moore Stand by one of two ways. Most fans who have arrived by train get to the Away Turnstiles by walking along Priestfield Road, which brings them right up to the stand’s entrance.
Alternatively, there is a very narrow path between the stadium and nearby houses, which allows fans on Gordon Road to get over to Linden Road on the northern side of the ground and vice versa.
The Brian Moore Stand’s turnstiles are in a detached brickwork building, and through the blue gates nearby you can see the exo-skeleton of the ‘temporary’ stand, with a load of staircases leading up to the seating area itself.
This is easily the most unattractive part of Priestfield Stadium.
Inside the Stadium
The Medway Stand is divided into two tiers of blue seating.
The lower tier is much larger than the upper tier, and there is a row of executive boxes separating the two from one another. The boxes closest to the northeast corner are part of the Factory Bar and Restaurant, and customers inside can get a view of a game taking place from their table.
Gillingham’s press box and executive seating blocks are in the centre of the upper tier, whilst the two dugouts are built into the tier below.
The tunnel and changing rooms are based in the northwest corner of the stadium, and so the teams walk out along the side of the pitch rather than at other grounds where they emerge through the middle of a stand.
The only supporting pillars in place are at the very back of the upper tier and do not get in the way. As a result, your view of the pitch is perfectly clear from any seat in the Medway Stand, and with the players’ building at one end and the club offices at the other, these act as windshields for the entire seating area.
The Rainham End is made up of a single tier of blue seating with the letters GFC spelt out in white along the central blocks.
Much like the adjacent Medway Stand, the only supporting pillars in place are at the very back of the stand and do not get in the way, so you once again have a completely clear view of the action from any seat.
The club offices offer protection on one side, and there is a traditional windshield in place on the other.
The Gordon Road Stand is also single-tiered but much smaller than the Rainham End next to it.
The letters THE GILLS are spelt out in white across the blocks of blue seating. A small gap in the roof holds both the matchday camera and an electronic scoreboard which can be seen by most fans elsewhere in the stadium.
Pillars do come down on the staircases between each block but these are only likely to restrict your view if you are sat in the back row seats. Anywhere down towards the front should provide a perfectly clear view of the action.
Windshields additionally protect most of the rows on either side.
The Brian Moore Stand is probably the most well-known part of Priestfield Stadium, for all the wrong reasons.
Looking more like something you would expect to find at a College Sports Stadium in the United States, it is made up of two tiers of blue seating with no windshields on the sides and no roof overhead. If you are sat on the seats at either end of the stand, there is nothing but a metal fence in place and a pretty big drop beyond it.
You do of course have a very clear view of the action in front of you, but with nothing over your head, you will feel all the wind and all the rain.
The location of away fans at Priestfield Stadium depends on the size of the allocation.
When small away followings are expected, the Brian Moore Stand is left closed and travelling fans are housed in a couple of blocks in the Gordon Road Stand, typically the ones next to the southwest corner.
Larger away followings require the Brian Moore Stand to be opened as well, and they are usually kept in just the upper tier seats. It is only in games when Priestfield is expected to be full that you will find the lower tier of the Brian Moore Stand open as well.
My advice to away fans, especially those who are coming as part of a large contingent, is to wrap up warm, and then wrap yourself up again!
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Britannia (158 High Street, ME7 1AJ) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located very close to Gillingham Station)
-The Cricketers (40 Sturdee Avenue, ME7 2JR) (Typically Home and Away Supporters)
-The Fleur De Lis (46 Gillingham Road, ME7 4RR) (Designated for Away Supporters)
-Past and Present (15 Canterbury Street, ME7 5TP) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near Gillingham Town Centre)
-The Will Adams (73 Saxton Street, ME7 5EG) (Away Supporters Welcome) (Located near Gillingham Town Centre)
As an away supporter, Priestfield is unlikely to be one your favourites, or indeed enjoyable. As a home or neutral supporter though, the stadium is perfectly adequate.
Its north and east sides provide excellent views from any seat, and most seats in its southern stand are fine, albeit much lower down.
A big positive of Priestfield Stadium is that it is well placed for those coming by rail and you should be able to find parking spaces for free that are not too far away either.
Kent’s largest football stadium is a unique place and one that you should definitely come and see a match at, just be wary if you have a ticket for its Brian Moore Stand.
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