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D-Day looms for Inverness Caledonian Thistle youth set-up

By Alasdair Fraser

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PARENTS of young football talents within Caley Thistle’s youth structure have been given until Wednesday to decide whether or not to back the club’s academy with regular donations.

Caley Thistle chief executive officer Scot Gardiner. Picture: Callum Mackay
Caley Thistle chief executive officer Scot Gardiner. Picture: Callum Mackay

The Championship club, amid the unprecedented financial strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, are asking for £10-a-week contributions to maintain the current scale of operation.

Within the SFA’s flagship Project Brave initiative, Caley Thistle’s head of youth Charlie Christie oversees seven teams with close to 140 players from under-12s to under-18s level.

Maintaining that set-up costs the club over £1200 per child per season, with an £80,000 SFA payment at Project Brave’s ‘progressive’ second tier as return for meeting 63 strict criteria.

With payments by parents prohibited under Project Brave rules, the Inverness club feel they were left with no option but to ask parents to commit to regular donations to bridge a high five-figure funding gap. The donations are not compulsory and those unable to pay won’t see children turned away from the academy if it survives in its current form.

But to avoid exiting Project Brave and greatly scaling down the operation, the club needs a high proportion of parents to back them.

At meetings on Monday and Tuesday, Caley Thistle’s chief executive Scot Gardiner, chairman Ross Morrison and Christie highlighted the gravity of the situation and the stark financial choices at play.

They now hope to secure parental support and update the club’s board at a special meeting next week.

Gardiner said: “The meetings earlier this week were very positive and constructive.

“But the proof will be in the pudding in terms of what response we get.”

He added: “We’ve set a deadline of seven days, through to Wednesday next week, for everyone to come back to us.

“We’re going to have a board meeting next Thursday, by which time we’ll know what the response is and where we stand financially.

“The board will then discuss it and decide what we do from there.”

He continued: “I think there were over 90 per cent of parents in attendance across the six socially-distanced meetings we held on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

“That was tremendous, but now we need to wait and see what happens in the next seven days.”

Caley Thistle provide high quality training for children within those age groups, with Christie part of a three-strong full-time team backed by 14 part-time accredited coaches.

The alternative for the club, should insufficient backing follow, would be to run only three elite teams within the academy.

Meanwhile, ICT learned they will face Dunfermline away in the Championship opener on October 17. With teams meeting only three times, ICT play title favourites Hearts twice away and once at home.

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