Significant milestone for ICTFC as Tulloch agrees transfer of stadium lease
Shareholders of Inverness Caledonian Thistle have received the good news that Tulloch Homes have agreed to return the lease of the stadium and North and South stands to the ownership of the club and at the same time have allowed access to the adjacent car parks for the foreseeable future.
Speaking at the club’s annual general meeting, Chairman Graham Rae described the confirmation of the gift from Tulloch as a significant milestone for the club, giving supporters a much needed assurance over the future of the stadium and the Directors of the club the confidence and authority to seek new investment.
The Highland Council, as trustees of the Inverness Common Good Fund and landlords, need to approve the lease transfer but Mr Rae said he was confident that this would not be a sticking point, given Tulloch’s support for the transfer.
A 99-year lease for the 15-acre East Longman site was granted to the club by the Council in 1995. The lease left the control of the club in 2001 when Tulloch agreed to write off debt of £2.4 million and keep the club in existence.
Mr Rae said: "We are delighted to announce that the Board has reached agreement with Tulloch regarding their gift of December 2016 of the stadium and North and South stands. The Club’s accounts for 2016/17 reflect the removal of past and future rent, and that subject to verification from The Highland Council, Tulloch and ICTFC are aligned on the partial lease assignation of the stadium and stands land back to the Club."
"This is a major milestone and facilitates our future operational integrity, underpins new investment and secures the Club in a full say in any potential development. For the record, and on behalf of my fellow Directors, I would like to thank George Fraser, Chief Executive of Tulloch, and the Tulloch Board of Directors for their support and commitment to ICTFC."
"This helps the Club to go forward by securing a substantial part of the land lease and adding considerable value to our balance sheet. It also represents the end of an era of rental debt and provides an opportunity to begin again. This change augers well for the future financial success of our business, and the Board of ICTFC ask that all shareholders recognise this significant development."
"Major objections without viable alternatives are not in the Club’s interest. ICTFC would love to have a direct lease for the adjacent land, but it’s not currently a realistic outcome, as the Club has not had the lease for the land since 2001."
Looking ahead, Mr Rae conceded it was difficult to make medium and long-term decisions in an environment so susceptible to change and uncertainty like Scottish football.
He said: "The Board believes that it is critical to design and implement a well-chosen and innovative strategy that ensures the Club adopts a scalable and sustainable business model that is predicated on strict fiscal discipline and realistic levels of income and expenditure."
He revealed that the Board has prepared a new Business Case that sets out its aspirations for moving the Club forward.
He said: "Working together, we commit to propose an alternative ICTFC corporate structure, legal basis and ownership framework for review and consideration by ICTFC shareholders in 2018. This re-structuring will help to ensure that the Club lives within its means and is managed with the full knowledge and cooperation of its shareholders. The new corporate structure envisages a new architecture as a Community Interest Company, balanced shareholder framework and voting rights, involvement of supporter’s trusts, business and property ownership, governance controls and community integration."
"The objective is to provide a stable and viable future for ICTFC with no one person or institution controlling the Club. With this, we will restore the good name and rebuild the brand and reputation of ICTFC in the local community and within Scottish football. The transformation of ICTFC to being organised as a community club is estimated to take 1 to 2 years. In the mean-time and to ensure survival on a credible basis, the Club needs to increase income with continued budgetary restraint, as well as further substantial investment."
Mr Rae highlighted the importance of the football club to the local community.
He said: "A successful football team promotes a sense of community and fosters a culture of pride wherever it exists. Moreover, a flourishing football club is good for the local economy as it generates employment and new business – direct and non-direct – as well as having a positive social and commercial impact relative to civic reputation, tourism, travel and retail activities in the Highlands. We have engaged an expert to undertake an economic impact assessment of ICTFC, and preliminary analysis estimates that our Club made a direct economic contribution to the local and regional economy of between £4.6 and £.5.1 million for the 2016/17 season."
Note: At the start of the AGM, shareholders were presented with a response by the Directors to an open letter which had earlier been circulated by shareholders, Dougie McGilvray, Iain McGilvray and Alan Savage. This response is availavble by clicking HERE. In speaking to his annual report, the Chairman expressed his wish that all parties interested in the future of the club should work together for the benefit of the club.