There was relief all round yesterday at Inverness City Football Club as an eleventh hour decision to grant an extension to its lease at Bught Park saved the team from folding.
The city’s only junior football team was due to be evicted from its current home at Bught playing field on October 30 when the lease expired.
But Highland Council has agreed to grant an extension until May 15 next year which will allow the club to remain active throughout the current season until it moves to a new pitch at Kirkhill, 10 miles north-west of Inverness.
A council spokeswoman said: “Members of the council’s City of Inverness Area Committee are supportive of this decision, which delivers on their commitment to support the club in their quest to find a long term home ground which meets Scottish Junior Football Association rules.”
Chairman of Inverness City FC Alastair Wardhaugh said: “Well we have waited a long time for it. I am certainly delighted about it. That’s what we asked them for. We are delighted at the way it seems to be going.
“We are obviously going to need funding to carry out the improvements that are necessary at Kirkhill to meet Scottish junior football requirements. But this is a huge relief for our club. I think we would have folded if we didn’t get the extension.
“The council hasn’t done anything wrong; our lease was due to be up. We asked two-and-a-half years ago if it could be extended and we got a letter 18 months ago saying it wouldn’t be extended. They haven’t done anything wrong, but I don’t know what they want it for, that seems to be a big secret.
“We spent a lot of money there to comply with Scottish junior football requirements. The specification is quite high. I was probably naive. We thought the lease would go on forever but that is apparently not the case.”
The new ground at Kirkhill Community Centre belongs to Kirkhill Community Trust. The team has a lease there until 2030 and has made commitments to the community to coach youngsters.
Mr Wardhaugh said: “I think we will get more support out there in the village than we are getting in the city. If Clach and Caley are playing at home on a Saturday we do struggle to get a crowd.”
The team hopes to be playing at Kirkhill by August next year.
A council spokeswoman added: “The Bught area is fundamentally an open public space that has been used as such for many generations. Members were not minded to give permanent long-term restricted access to an area that is a public open space.”