Inverness CT: Virtual tickets for Hearts' visit sets new 'attendance' record

Inverness Caley Thistle's home match with Hearts later this month has attracted donations from fans of the Edinburgh club and others
Inverness Caley Thistle's home match with Hearts later this month has attracted donations from fans of the Edinburgh club and others

Inverness Caledonian Thistle have set a new club record attendance - even with no fans in the stadium.

The club have now sold 7,820 "virtual tickets" for Hearts' Scottish Championship visit on 26 February.

The Highlanders' highest crowd is 7,753 - set against Rangers in 2008 - at their 7,822-capacity stadium.

ICT say they are "astonished and full of gratitude" following the generosity of Hearts supporters and followers of other sides who have donated.

"It's blown us away," chief executive Scot Gardiner told BBC Scotland.

"From the start of the season we had looked at this as being one of our biggest games. A lot of Hearts supporters clubs had said they were going to come because back in 2013 when Hearts had real financial issues, Caley Thistle had donated £5 a ticket and that money went to the fans' fighting fund who were trying to buy the club.

"Once we knew the fans couldn't come, we had dialogue with the federation of Hearts supporters clubs and they asked if there was anything they could do to help. A few weeks back Marine had played Tottenham [in the FA Cup] with no fans allowed and Marine did a virtual ticket. So we took the idea from that.

"The Hearts fans in particular - it's not just them, fans of lots of clubs have done it - have really taken this challenge on. It's been amazing how generous they've been in the last few days."

Supporters can donate to the club in the form of either a £5 virtual ticket or a £10 for a souvenir match ticket and thank you letter, signed by Inverness manager and Hearts legend John Robertson.

The tickets for the game, which will be broadcast from an empty Caledonian Stadium on the BBC Scotland channel, went on sale on Saturday, with over 4,7000 snapped up within 24 hours, including 1,000 in a 90-minute period.

"John was very bullish and effervescent at the start of it, but he's glaring at me. He'll be preparing the team with his arm in a sling," Gardiner added.

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