Caterer Centerplate UK has walked out of its ‘unsustainable' £21.3m contract with League One football club Gillingham.
Centerplate is understood to have informed the club that it would cease catering operations at the 11,000 capacity stadium with immediate effect, reported the BBC.
Adrian Dishington, chief operating officer of the UK arm of the American foodservice firm, said that "every effort" was made to ensure the contract was sustainable before the decision was taken to make an early exit from the contract.
Gillingham FC's Priestfield Stadium joined the Centerplate portfolio following its acquisition of the Lindley Group in 2013. Lindley was awarded a seven-year deal with the football club in July 2011, replacing incumbent caterer Compass Group and being tasked with maximising potential sales revenue from both match day and non-match day hospitality.
At the time, Gillingham FC chairman Paul Scally indicated that the caterer's reputation in the footballing world, operating at a number of league clubs across the UK, helped it to secure the contract. He said: "We were well aware of their reputation for operating retail outlets at various sporting venues, and although that was important to us we also wanted an operator who would help us capitalise on our superb conference and banqueting facilities."
However, reports that Gillingham FC have said that this "very serious matter" is now with its lawyers, suggest the relationship between the club and the caterer has reached an impasse.
In a press release issued on the club's website, Gillingham FC said that it "finds the conduct of this substantial American caterer to be disgraceful and unprofessional", adding that the "very serious matter" is now in the hands of its lawyers.
Gillingham FC went on to post the contact details, including email addresses and phone numbers of three of Centerplate's executive team in the US, including Chris Verros, president and CEO, Keith King, chief legal and talent officer, and Jill Crowe, director of executive administration, as well as that of its own chairman, Paul Scally.
Dishington said that while Centerplate values its client partnerships both in the UK and around the world, the caterer's efforts over the last year to renegotiate terms with Gillingham FC's management had been unsuccessful.
The caterer had put forward a new proposal and told the club that it would continue to deliver catering services until the end of the season under the condition that negotiations would continue. However, a meeting scheduled for 5 March to try and resolve the issues with the club proved fruitless when Scally failed to attend or make himself available on the telephone.
It is understood that efforts were made with the club and its lawyers in the following 12 days, but Centerplate received no response or counter-offer to its proposal, leading it to withdraw from the contract.
"The existing terms of a contract that was signed prior to Centerplate's acquisition of the Lindley Group, and - despite our every effort - the lack of open dialogue with the Club's management, have resulted in a situation in which the quality of service for the club's supporters and guests and the level of investment required cannot be sustained," he added.
In a statement, Gillingham FC said: "The club finds this decision, and the conduct of this substantial American caterer, to be disgraceful and unprofessional.
"We have asked Centerplate to explain its decision but it has declined to do so."