"Robbo's signing tickets for fans from Gorebridge to Gothenburg" - Hearts supporters' generosity to Inverness laid bare

It’s an environmentalist’s dream. Inverness Caledonian Thistle will enjoy the proceeds from a biggest-ever away support at their stadium for the Championship clash against Hearts later this month, but it won’t involve so much as a puff of exhaust fumes.

By Alan Pattullo
Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 10:16 am
Inverness manager John Robertson earlier this season at Tynecastle when his side met Hearts in the Betfred Cup  (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Inverness manager John Robertson earlier this season at Tynecastle when his side met Hearts in the Betfred Cup (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Because the Hearts travelling support – numbering over 6,500 as it stands, and likely to grow a lot larger since the game is still over a fortnight away – will be sitting at home watching on TV. Their generosity, however, will go a long way.

Nearly £60,000 has already been raised since a virtual ticket initiative suggested by Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs official Steven Kilgour went live on the Inverness Caledonian Thistle website on Saturday.

To put this into perspective, the potentially life-saving donation from financier James Anderson to all Scottish clubs netted Inverness just over £50,000. They have since built a new shower room for away teams and installed a state-of-the-art telephone system allowing staff to work from home.

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With this latest unexpected windfall, Inverness can pay for Covid-19 testing brought in last month, at a cost of around £3,000-4,000 a week.

The clubs formed a bond in 2013-14 when Inverness donated £5 to the Hearts fighting fund for every visiting fan over the average away support attendance of 650 who made the trip for a game near the start of that season. Over 1000 turned up.

The Tynecastle club were in administration, and toiling. Now it’s Inverness’ turn to feel the pinch. They have not played since December and tomorrow night’s home match against Alloa Athletic is already in doubt as the temperate plummets in the Highlands.

“Your only revenue at the moment is pay-per-view,” explained chief executive Scot Gardiner. “We have had nothing since December so you can imagine the difference this makes.”

The game against Hearts will not be on pay-per-view because BBC Scotland have opted to show it live, which means no income for the home club.

“Revenue for pay-per-view is between £4,000 and £10,000 a match, depending on attractiveness,” said Gardiner. “The money raised is the equivalent of six or seven big games already. It’s an amazing gesture. It’s all positive. There is no badness.”

The last comment addresses the cynicism of those who claim Hearts supporters’ generosity is motivated purely by a wish to cock a snook at clubs who voted to curtail last season and effectively relegated the Tynecastle side. Inverness were one of the few who supported them.

The final number will likely see Inverness exceed their current official capacity of 7,512. The record attendance is 7,753 v Rangers. “I cannot presume it will keep going,” said Gardiner. “But there is no limit – they are virtual tickets! Inverness fans are buying them too. But the majority, I’d estimate 90 per cent, are Hearts supporters.”

A huge draw is the presence of John Robertson as manager at Inverness. The deal is he will sign every £10 ticket as well as a thank you letter enclosed with the souvenir. The £5 version is not signed by the Hearts legend.

He has already been busy. “Robbo’s signing letters for fans in Bathgate, Melbourne, Gothenburg and Gorebridge,” said Gardiner. “Our only cost is the postage for the ticket and letter. We thought it would be 50-50 but over 80 per cent are buying the £10 one.”

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