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Caley Thistle fans want club to halt training base move

ICTFC fans
Inverness fans at the 2022-23 Scottish Cup final against Celtic [PA Media]

Inverness Caledonian Thistle fans are demanding that the club's board rethink its plan to move its training base 136 miles to Fife.

The club announced last week that it had reached an agreement with League 1 rivals Kelty Hearts to use their New Central Park Stadium facilities.

The Caley Jags board said Inverness would always be the club's home, but it was facing challenges getting players to move to the Highlands and there was "extremely limited" housing stock in the city.

ICTFC Supporters Trust's Robert Andrew said the decision was more shocking and harder to take than the club's relegation from the Championship the previous week.

Robert Andrew
Robert Andrew said the training base announcement was more of shock than relegation [BBC]

Ahead of a meeting of supporters later, Mr Andrew told BBC Scotland News: "Inverness is a thriving city.

"It's a growing area and a lot of people want to come here to live and work.

"We don't see why footballers should be any different."

He said much of the fans' passion and pride in the club came from it being based in the Highlands.

Mr Andrew said: "People feel worse about this decision than they did about relegation a week ago.

"I really hope the board will reconsider and keep Inverness Caledonian Thistle's heart and soul in the city of Inverness."

David and Jan Seaman
David and Jan Seaman said supporting ICTFC helped to feel they were part of the local community [BBC]

Attending the meeting at Inverness Caledonian Thistle's social club were fans David and Jan Seaman.

The couple said supporting Inverness had helped them feel part of the local community after moving from England four years ago.

Mrs Seaman said the club's planned move felt worse than relegation.

She said: "It is supposed to be part of the community. It has been important to us and our integration into the community."

Mr Seaman added: "The club has got to be restructured.

"Bring the fans in and let's put some on the board and maybe even have a shares issue to put some money back into the club."

ICTFC fans
Fans arrive for a supporters' meeting at Inverness Caley Thistle's social club [BBC]
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Alasdair Fraser, sports writer on the Inverness Courier, said he had not seen such acrimony among the Caley Thistle support since the controversial merger that formed the club 30 years ago.

ICTFC emerged in 1994 from the amalgamation of two historic Inverness Highland League clubs - Caledonian and Inverness Thistle, which were both formed in 1885.

Mr Fraser told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Part of Caley Thistle's DNA has always been geography and that separateness from the rest of Scottish football.

"The board has got its reasons and I am sure good intensions, but to change that central part of the club's DNA has hit a nerve.

"There's a lot of hurt, anger, also disbelief and bewilderment."

Mr Fraser said it was understood that ICTFC would make a six figure saving by not having to house players in Inverness.

Charles Bannerman, a freelance journalist who has covered ICTFC for 30 years and wrote a book about the merger, said moving the training base could be "catastrophic" for the club.

He said: "So many people are saying they are not going to renew season tickets.

"Apart from that, I just wonder what local business is going to support a club that is perceived to be based in Fife?"

Inverness Courier front page
The front page of the latest edition of The Inverness Courier [BBC]

ICTFC has been approached for comment on the fans' anger.

In its statement last week, the club said: "Inverness is and will always be our home.

"The Caledonian Stadium will always be where we play our football.

"We hope this venture will help us achieve our goal in giving our supporters a team to be proud of."

In a social media post Kelty Hearts described the move as a "creative partnership" that would benefit both clubs.

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