KELTY HEARTS have described a move that will see one of their League One rivals use their home ground for training next season as "innovative".

On Friday, the club and Inverness Caledonian Thistle announced that the latter would be basing themselves at New Central Park during the week.

In what they described as a "creative partnership", the 'Maroon Machine' said that the Highlanders, relegated from the Championship into League One, will hire their facilities, including the artificial surface, on-site grass pitches, and offices for their coaching staff.

The move, however, has sparked anger amongst Inverness supporters, which they believe "rips the soul of the club out of the community" as their team look set to train 135 miles away from their home ground.

Welcoming the move, Kelty said: "This creative partnership will see ICTFC (Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC) hire the NCP (New Central Park) facilities, which include a 3G pitch, on-site grass pitches and offices for their coaching staff, as a training base during the week.

Central Fife Times: Inverness will train on Kelty Hearts' synthetic surface next season.Inverness will train on Kelty Hearts' synthetic surface next season. (Image: David Wardle.)

"When the two clubs originally started exploring this concept, ICTFC were still playing in the Championship. However next season will see them also playing League One football, but it still makes sense for both clubs to forge ahead with this unique partnership."

Inverness said that it was "one major part" of a "planned strategic restructure", and that "geographic challenges in getting players to move to the Highlands" was part of their thinking.

In a lengthy statement, they said: "The last few years have seen the geographic challenges in getting players to move to the Highlands become ever harder for a number of reasons.

"Caledonian Stadium will always be our home, but other factors in Scottish football have changed and where we train should not be an impediment to the quality of the players we can attract to Caley Thistle, or to our potential to progress.

"The commercial success of the city of Inverness – which will always be our home - both as a tourist destination and a place to live, has led to very high prices for the accommodation we require to house players.

"In addition to these high costs which our competitors do not carry, the extremely limited housing stock in Inverness continues to be both a challenge and a huge factor working against us.

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"Increased playing budgets in and around the central belt has meant that on many occasions, even when we have offered players more favourable terms than our competitors, sometimes even agreed deals, we have then been told that the player has changed his mind due to challenges relocating their families.

"Support structures in and around the families of players may all be in and around the central belt, partners will have jobs where they live and moving kids schools to the Highlands and moving home itself can just be seen as impractical for a one or two year contract.

"It makes it particularly challenging for us to sign senior players, a category which through no fault of our budget, or of previous ICT managers, we have struggled to attract in the last few seasons.

"Similarly, our location means that we miss out on the opportunity of signing promising players from the larger clubs in Scotland, on loan or otherwise."

That, however, has cut no ice with fuming Inverness fans, with the ICT Supporters Trust hosting an open meeting tonight (Tuesday).

In a statement ahead of that event, in which they said that "the future of the club is at stake", they commented: "The bizarre decision to move ICTFC’s training base to Fife has proved that those at the top of the football club are completely and utterly disengaged with the fanbase.

"Only a few days ago, ICT chairman Ross Morrison stated, ‘now is the time to demonstrate unity,’ yet he has now overseen a decision that literally rips the soul of the club out of the community."

Inverness dropped out of the Championship after finishing ninth and entering the play-offs where, after a semi-final win over Montrose, they lost to Hamilton Academical, who were promoted.

They will meet Kelty in the third tier of Scottish football, where Michael Tidser's team will play for a third successive season, having ended the campaign in their highest league placing of sixth.

Central Fife Times: The clubs have met once before will do so again in League One next term.The clubs have met once before will do so again in League One next term. (Image: David Wardle.)

The clubs have met once before in a competitive match, in July 2022, when Inverness won a League Cup group stage tie 1-0 at New Central Park.

The Times has approached Kelty Hearts for further comment.