INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle last night reacted with fury over proposed ticketing arrangements for next month’s League Cup final against Aberdeen.
The Highland club are ready to reject the SPFL’s “insulting” offer for the 16 March showpiece occasion at Celtic Park.
Supporters’ chief David Balfour met with club chairman Kenny Cameron yesterday afternoon. The pair were united in damning criticism of both the seating plan and the number of tickets offered to Inverness.
Aberdeen have negotiated a 30,000 allocation for the game, with their fans planted in prime viewing areas around the ground including the North, Jock Stein (West) and Main Stands. Half of the Lisbon Lions Stand, behind the goals, has been left empty. Aberdeen’s allocation also extends into the lower part of the Lisbon Lions’ stand.
Balfour, chair of the Caley Jags Together supporters’ trust, said Inverness supporters, in stark contrast, had been “split in two and shoved in a corner”. He is also unhappy at being offered only 7,600 briefs and insisted the club would be able to sell 10,000 for their historic first major final.
“It is insulting to our club and supporters,” said Balfour. “I met with the chairman this afternoon and we are in agreement. As far as we’re concerned, we’re still negotiating numbers and where our supporters shall be seated. Nobody has come on to tell us that the arrangement published on an Aberdeen FC website is definitely the case.
“As far as we’re concerned that is premature. In any case, it is certainly not an arrangement we will be signing up to. The allocation we have been offered is 7,500. We want 10,000 and are in no doubts that we can sell that many. We have been offered no explanation for this by the SPFL.
“We are also deeply unhappy about the sections of the ground we are supposedly being given. They are giving us part of the Lisbon Lions stand and part of the Main Stand – with a hole in the middle. So they are splitting up our support and shoving us in a corner. We will be challenging this.”
There is also anger over the 2.30pm kick-off, given that the first train from Inverness only arrives in Glasgow at 2.05pm. Balfour added: “There is a feeling we are being treated like second- class citizens, again and again.”
Tonight, Inverness must turn their attention to the William Hill Scottish Cup and a fifth-round replay tie against Stranraer. Josh Meekings has already seen one cup final dream salvaged this season and the Caley Thistle defender is in no mood to have the achievement tarnished by a Scottish Cup exit to the League 1 part-timers.
Until the heroic nine-man League Cup semi-final comeback at Easter Road to send Hearts crashing out of the tournament, Inverness had never made a national final. Now they have the chance of reaching – and maybe even winning – two in one season.
Meekings said: “If we got to the final in one cup and got knocked out by Stranraer in another, it would be a bitterly-disappointing thing. We want to get as far as we can in both cups. We’ve said that right from the start. We want to achieve as much as we can in both cup competitions and finish as high as we can in the league table.”
Of the 2-2 draw at Stranraer earlier this month, he said: “It was just one of those days – a horrible game to play in. The wind was blowing and the conditions made it hard for us to play the football we wanted. It was the same for both teams, so there were no excuses, but we can just look to the replay now and try to put it right up here.”
Stranraer manager Stephen Aitken has told his players to simply enjoy the experience and stay relaxed. He said: “The message I have given the players is to go out and enjoy the game at a good stadium that will be new to most of them.
“However they have also been told to stick to the tactics they have been given and if they do, then we are in with a chance. We have to keep it tight at the back and look to nick a goal. We have scored in 28 games in a row so we are confident that if we get an opening we can score.”