Investment from America in football clubs traditionally draws scepticism and fantasy in equal measure.
For Alastair Caithness, investing in Nairn County with his business partner Douglas Ramsay was down to their community-centric model.
Caithness was born and raised in Inverness, growing up in Crown and supporting Inverness Thistle. He attended Robert Gordon’s University and remains a Dons fan.
Business interests took him State-side to San Diego. He is founder and CEO of Ziyen Energy, which specialises in the use of blockchain technology in the oil and gas industry. He is also involved in US politics with the Libertarian Party.
He and Ramsay, uncle of Wee County defender Cohen, were keen to branch out into football.
After discussions with the club’s director of football, Graeme Macleod, a partnership was struck.
“I have known Douglas for a number of years,” he said. “He’s based out in Oslo now but it’s his nephew Cohen that got us following Nairn.
“We were speaking about getting involved in branding with a Scottish football club and reached out to a few clubs.
“I ended up speaking to Graeme, and at the start I was just wanting to take a board out at the ground.
“We started speaking about what they were doing at the club, everything they’d been doing online, and I was totally impressed.
“We started looking at their online social profile and it’s amazing.
“They’ve built up this network. If I went and spent the same money on Facebook, there’s no way I’d get the same return in terms of coverage, likes or comments, that the club can do.
“If you look at Nairn and how they’re structuring it, because they’ve got this reach into the community, you’re so much better forging a partnership with them, because you’ll get such a better return bang for your buck.”
Caithness’ company has agreed to sponsor Nairn’s social media channels, which has seen them start up a club podcast and a TikTok channel.
The digital output of the club has become his focus and, with a background in PR, something he is keen on developing.
The club management committee will have the benefit of his and Ramsay’s expertise. They have become more self-sustainable after the withdrawal of main sponsors Narden in 2016, with recalibration of finances a must.
When the pandemic struck, Nairn made a point of repaying the businesses and community that had supported them when they were on their knees. They were ready to go out and help those in need.
“The next stage we’re looking to discuss with Nairn is how can we get more shareholders or people to invest in the club, get something in return.
“What I like about Nairn is the way they’ve structured it now. No outside owner can ever own that club. It’ll always be owned by the club. It moves away from this Gretna-type model. He (Brooks Mileson) proved that if you pump money in you can get into Scottish football but if you pull that out, where does it go?
“Nairn will never let that happen again. What they’re doing is going into the community and structuring the club right.”
There is already a Nairn County supporters’ group in the States – the Renegade Futbol Fanatics in North Carolina – but there is a desire to strengthen that relationship.
“People want to be associated not just with history but positive history,” added Caithness. “Everybody in America knows of Charlie Chaplin and Nairn is where he used to go on his holidays.
“If you create the right financial model at this community club, you’re creating a club for the next 100 years, rather than waiting for a rich owner to prop up the club.”