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Crunch time for Inverness Caley Thistle youth academy

By Alasdair Fraser

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CALEY THISTLE will tonight continue crunch talks with parents aimed at saving the club’s youth academy in its current form.

ICT Supporters Open Meeting, Caley Social Club..Chairman Ross Morrison and Chief Executive Officer Scot Gardiner...Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No..
ICT Supporters Open Meeting, Caley Social Club..Chairman Ross Morrison and Chief Executive Officer Scot Gardiner...Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No..

Chairman Ross Morrison will join chief executive Scot Gardiner and academy director Charlie Christie on the podium to hammer out the gravity of the situation and the stark financial choices at play.

Without proposed parental donations of £10 a week, Caley Thistle will be forced to scrap involvement in the SFA’s flagship Project Brave youth initiative and greatly scale down academy operations.

That would mean slashing the number of teams run at under-12s to under-18s level from seven to three.

Currently, close to 140 kids receive high calibre youth training at an estimated cost of more than £1200 per child, delivered by three full-time and 14 part-time coaches.

In return, the SFA contributes £80,000, well below half of Caley Thistle’s yearly outlay, yet pay-to-play fees remain outlawed under the governing body’s rules.

The Inverness club believes it can retain ‘progressive’, second tier Project Brave status if parents who are able to pay agree to offset a high enough proportion of those losses. Around half have already agreed, but the club needs a significantly higher number on board.

Gardiner said: “We’re not dressing this up. We’re facing cold, hard financial decisions. These are really important meetings for the future of our academy.

“We’re going to be looking everybody in the whites of their eyes and saying: ‘Here’s the situation. It’s down to you guys now.’ We’re in a pandemic. Ross and I are fighting to keep our youth academy in its current state, but the bottom line is we can’t do it on our own.”

In recent years, Falkirk, Livingston and Dunfermline have withdrawn academies from Project Brave. Hibs recently laid off youth coaches, while Dundee and others are believed to be reviewing Project Brave involvement.

Gardiner stressed: “Like everyone else, we’re re-evaluating what we can afford. It’s not the SFA’s fault that we’re here in the Highlands, but it’s a simple fact that a Highland boy is more expensive than a central belt lad in giving a pathway through to professional football.

“It is £700 or £800 a bus for matches three or four hours away and we have boys coming from Wick, Invergordon, Dornoch, Fort William, Elgin to get here at 7.30am for, say, a noon kick-off at Ayr.

“The costs for us are astronomical. There are 63 criteria to meet, such as having a physio at every training session. What they’re getting from us is far from boys’ club offerings – they get the best of the best.

“But in the Championship, it’s near impossible to do that without assistance, whether sponsorship or parental contributions.”

Read today's Inverness Courier in full by clicking here.

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