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    Ask the Chairman

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    Alan Savage Caley Thistle Chairman Alan Savage recently agreed to answer questions submitted to him by users of CaleyThistleOnline.com.

    A total of 49 questions were submitted by a number of people covering a wide range of subjects and although we didn’t think he would answer them all, he did ... including the less serious ones.

    The questions asked were on a wide range of subjects and we have broken them down into loose categories to make the article easier to read.

    Although many questions were not answered expansively, we feel this is fair as we cant really expect the Chairman to lay out explicit details of things like the transfer budget or other commercially confidential information for all to see as it could affect the ability of the manager to negotiate contracts & transfer deals or hinder the commercial department in their day-to-day projects.

    We were also happy to note that there were a few questions asked where he didn't just pay lip service and answer the way that the questioner hoped but instead took the question ‘under advisement’ because he perhaps didn’t realise there was an issue, or it may have been the first time a particular idea was suggested to him meaning that he needs to speak to others before being able to answer it. We hope he does follow thorough and answer those questions ... perhaps in a future Q&A session ?

    Overall, we give the chairman an ‘A’ for effort and hope there will be another ‘report card’ for a future Q&A session so without further ado, lets get to the questions and answers .....

    {mospagebreak}

    The Stadium (and surrounding area)

    stadium {josquote}We are considering the best way to increase capacity at the stadium... Alan Savage{/josquote} There has been much talk over the years about the choice to be made between expanding the ground or selling it and moving elsewhere, suggestions on how to sort out the car parking shambles that occurs at times, questions over the suitability of a portakabin for a shop and all sorts of other things ...  Many of these questions came up in the 'stadium' category of questions.

    What, if any plans are there for a fourth stand at TCS? - Jamie MacKay, Inverness

    AS: We are considering the best way to increase capacity at the stadium and this is one of the most viable options. Obviously such investment would only take place when we consistently fill the current stands.

    Currently we have the smallest stadium in the SPL, is it being made a priority to add a 4th stand? - Gary Donaldson, Stirling

    AS: We are considering the best way to increase capacity at the stadium and this is one of the most viable options. Obviously such investment would only take place when we consistently fill the current stands.

    First may I applaud you for giving fans this opportunity to get answers 'straight from the horses mouth'. My question relates to the 4th (west) stand. What is the club's definitive policy on this? My own view is that it would pay for itself within 5 years, assuming a construction cost of £400K and then filling it 3 times a season (2000 extra seats @£20 =£40K, times 3 = £120k, minus £20k admin, extra police/stewards etc = £500k profit over 5 seasons. Then take off another £100k for finance charges if initial money was borrowed, and we break even in 5 seasons). Am I way out with these figures? - A D Stewart, Berkshire

    AS: We are considering the best way to increase capacity at the stadium and this is one of the most viable options. Once I have had a chance to get my accounts people to look at it I will be able to advise if your “fag packet” estimates are anywhere near. Of course we will be looking at some conceptual designs say incorporating a bar or offices or conferencing ie making the best possible use. Obviously such investment would only take place when we consistently fill the current stands.

    While the temporary stands are reasonable for their purpose will there ever come a time when they need to be rebuilt into 'proper' stands and what chance is there of the ground capacity being expanded? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: A fourth stand looks like the most viable option though work is only likely to commence once we fill what we have got on a more consistent basis.

    terracing As a 68 year old fan I still have my mental faculties and memories of the many enjoyable times I stood at several grounds, notably, Caley, East Fife, Wolves and Hibs every other Saturday, win or lose. I am appalled that the terracing has been disallowed as a fan standpoint and viewpoint since it is unrivalled for atmosphere and ease of movement and for changing viewpoints. It is the quintessential fan's traditional favourite and for good reason. Please advise whether the current suggestions that I have seen on the BBC web site news etc relating to the possibility of bringing back the terracing is valid and may lead to this happening in Scotland and at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. - Roderick Rhodes, British Columbia, Canada

    AS: We are governed by the SPL and would only implement such measures if it was ok to do so and after all necessary risk assessments had been done.

    Car Park: This is an issue that never affects me but I felt I would ask a question on it anyway. Many people complain about the apparent lack of efficiency when the car park attendants attempt to clear the car park after a game. How well do you feel the procedure is handled and is there anyway it could be improved if it needs to be? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: One of my staff had a look at what’s happening at last Saturday’s game – Motherwell. He gave me a verbal report and will be making a report on what he saw and I will be taking it up with the CEO and the Police very soon. It looks like some common sense measures can be taken to improve things.

    cshop The Portacabin is not an ideal place to sell ICT merchandise and does not convey a very good image of the club. Are there any plans to move the shop to a better location and to sell products at other locations? - Jamie Mackay, Inverness

    AS: Yes we are looking at this and hope to have something in place during the close season.

    Why is there pedestrian crossing assistance from the Police at the A9 before and after only certain matches? I have real concerns that a supporter is going to get seriously injured. - Jamie Mackay, Inverness

    AS: I have passed this to the CEO and he will get comments from the Police in due course.

    There are constant rumours of ASDA buying the site the ground is on as well as developments such as offices or pubs at the stadium. Are these something you would like to see come to fruition? - More the pub or offices than ASDA or another Tesco!!! - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: No.

    {mospagebreak}

    The Team

    ICTteam {josquote}There are funds available and Charlie and Graeme have been advised of the amount. Alan Savage{/josquote}

    The next most popular set of questions was about the team. Most users focussed on what we are doing to keep our existing players and what options the Manager has been given to strengthen the squad but there were also a few other questions too...

     

    Is Charlie to be handed a transfer budget for the Christmas transfer window? - Gary Donaldson, Stirling

    AS: There are funds available and Charlie and Graeme have been advised of the amount.

    With the transfer window opening in January, and with a few of our 'top' players out of contract at the end of the season will the board be in a position to support CC with extra money to persuade the players to stay or in the event that they decide to leave, buy ' quality' players? - Richard Murray, Inverness

    AS: The Board have set budgets, Charlie and Graham are aware of them and a plan is being developed.

    Even when we were in the lower divisions, much was (and still is) made of the geographical disadvantage that Inverness suffers when trying to attract new players and hang onto those at the club who are not from the area. What are we doing to keep our existing ‘stars’ and how do we hope to attract new ‘quality’ players to the club? - Scott MacKenzie, Toronto, Canada

    AS: The Board is actively trying to generate income and attract investment. Such monies will be spent on new players, keeping the current squad together and on Ground improvements.

    It has been reported that funds might be available for Charlie to enhance the squad in the January transfer window. Do you see the money being best spent on enhanced contracts for our current squad or bringing in new players on better contracts/terms? My worry is that someone on higher earnings might cause unrest within an otherwise settled dressing room. (We had a loan player from Rangers who looked like a quality player, but didn’t seem to fit in with the team at all). - Laura Grant, Inverness

    AS: A very good point and one that I am very aware of, a combination of one or two new players and retention of the current squad is what we are aiming at.

    juanjo01 I am a little bit concerned that you may look overseas to strengthen the playing side of the club. ICT has always had an almost 100% Scottish born squad which has kept the team spirit at a high level. I fear the introduction of foreign players may ruin this. Would the money being used to bring in these players be better spent on improving our current players contracts and possibly attracting more Scottish players? I believe there's enough Scottish talent out there without resorting to foreigners. Yes Football – a game of opinions. - Dave Wilson, Coventry

    AS: I look at the most successful sides in the world and how cosmopolitan they are – the backbone will always be Scottish, but we will look at any player who can improve the team, whilst fitting in in every way.

    Charlie was recently quoted as saying there was little or no scouting system at the club, are you scouting for a scout? and if so can I have a job ? - Gary Donaldson, Stirling

    AS: Yes and No.

    Many fans feel that ICT should always be challenging for top 6 in the SPL, others hope to avoid relegation while some believe the lofty heights of a European place are attainable. What kind of position do you see ICT regularly challenging for while in the SPL? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: Top 6 and good cup runs, the Intertoto might be the way into Europe.

    {mospagebreak}

    Ticketing

    kbfe {josquote}The team go out and try to play attractive and exciting football. Alan Savage{/josquote} Attendances, ticket prices, and how to encourage more people to come to matches both home and away were just some of the main questions in this section.

    kids Will the board encourage younger fans to attend matches buy lowering turnstile prices in line with many SPL clubs, i.e. £5 for U12'S. - Richard Murray, Inverness

    AS: We are looking at this with the Supporter’s Club.

      ICT often try to claim they are a family club and to a large extent I agree. However I feel strongly that children should not have to pay any more than £10 to get into grounds to see their team play. Therefore, is the £15 charged for Children in the North Stand not out of line for a club who wishes to attract families to the ground every 2nd Saturday (Family Stand excluded)? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: We are looking at this with the Supporter’s Club.

    stadium Recently at the CIS Cup games against Falkirk and Dumbarton we saw a huge dip in attendances. Many blamed this on the barely reduced entrance fee for the game. In the future would it be feasible to reduce ticket prices further for 'unattractive' games in order to get more people into the ground? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: Not my preferred route.

    Inverness has large in-migration from the UK and overseas. In the short term, how is the club trying to include and attract these people? - Ewan Macrae, Inverness

    AS: I take it you mean fans – the team go out and try to play attractive and exciting football and the Board look at ways of promoting the club through the internet, media and advertising (Polish flyers have been sent out).

    I live in Ayrshire and have been an away supporter since 1995. Indeed I only require 5 grounds to have seen ICT at all of the senior grounds in Scotland. I would attend more matches in the SPL if I were able to buy an away season ticket. Some clubs in England operate such a scheme (indeed, the Old Firm may also...) but you have to be a home season ticket holder first in order to apply. There are quite a few ICT supporters living in the central belt and it would be of great benefit to those fans (and indeed to the team on the pitch!) if we had this facility. As things stand, I pick and choose my matches on grounds of cost. What are your views on this? - Steve Taylor, Ayrshire

    AS: Our SPL representative will float this idea at the next meeting he attends – seems a good idea to me.

    {mospagebreak}

    Behind the scenes / off the park

    Club Shop {josquote}I am bringing my own style of management and thoroughness to the club. It’s a big job and one that will take a a couple of seasons at least and even then one that will require continuous improvement. Alan Savage {/josquote}There is never any shortage of debate about what goes on 'off the park' or behind the scenes. In truth, we see the product on the park but quite often fail to realise - unless there is something we don't like - that a lot of people work behind the scenes trying to raise the profile and efficiency of the club.

    There has been a lot of talk regarding a 'Mystery Exile' and Investment in ICTFC. Can you clarify the situation, as much of the press regarding it has been confusing? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: I am talking to a lot of business people about investment. There is no specific individual right now and the Press have been advised.

    cshopCompared to other SPL clubs our range of merchandise is very limited. Can we please have a wider range in the shop? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness.

    AS: Yes any suggestions? [editors note: Club Shop Manager Andrina has always been happy to take 'sensible' suggestions on board]

    Fans have been asking for a City Centre based shop for merchandise and Ticket sales for many seasons now. Is this something which features in your future plans? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness.

    AS: Again yes.

    How do the board propose to increase the profile of ICT, and move away from the "wee team up north" mentality which seems to put future potential players off? - Stephanie Grant, Inverness

    AS: Through the media, advertising and the internet. I have set up a “select committee including local business men, supporters and PR people and they are looking at innovative ways of raising the profile.

    Do ICT look at other clubs for good ideas, both on and off the park, if so what have they learnt? - Jamie Mackay, Inverness

    AS: Yes – staying in the SPL is the driver.

    Now the club seems to have established itself as an SPL outfit, what steps are you and the club taking to get us up to scratch off the pitch? - Gary Donaldson, Stirling

    AS: I am bringing my own style of management and thoroughness to the club. It’s a big job and one that will take a a couple of seasons at least and even then one that will require continuous improvement.

    This article is a great idea. I have missed the 'Boardroom Banter' articles that used to appear on the fan site and wondered if this kind of ‘interactive’ article would become a regular occurrence again? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: This for the website to organize – we regard interaction with our fans as paramount. [editors note: well Mr Chairman, organising is one of the things we do well, and we will certainly do this again if you are happy to take part again, perhaps we may even ask the Chief Executive a few questions as he seems to be quietly working away behind the scenes and can maybe enlighten us about some of his plans too.]

    When it first started I was initially skeptical of the Official website’s quality but it is improving fast. What other plans are there for that site and given its lack of forums or direct fan participation, for closer collaboration with the fans’ site in ventures like this question and answer session or other projects. - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: We have a website Manager and we regard the web as the ultimate communication tool – so we will be promoting it and be receptive to any sensible suggestions that provoke interest and more bums on seats.

    I read somewhere a comment about your intentions to look at tapping in to the Ex-Pat market in North America. Obviously these new fans will need an online source of information and chat. Do the club envisage the fan site at CaleyThistleOnline.com as the place to do this (the chat and discussion part at least) or do they have other plans? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness.

    AS: The website is the communication tool of choice.

    winners When the club won the 1st division we had a fun day. We wondered if it could be a yearly event for local charities and companies. This would keep the clubs profile high locally and possibly raise money for sponsorship etc. It was great to see the players there, mixing with the kids, the supporters of the future. - Lorna Green, Inverness

    AS: I will take this up with the Board.

    Would the board ever consider doing a one-off Fans Forum event for Charity with Charlie Christie, Graeme Bennett and a few off the players? I'm sure it would be a great night and raise quite a bit of money for local charities! - Stephanie Grant, Inverness

    AS: Yes – perhaps pre season?

    We the fans are often very vocal about the things the club does which we don't like. Turning that on its head, what do we the fans do which you/the club don't like? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: Nothing I want a thousand more at every game – all of you bring a friend too the next game – please.

    {mospagebreak}

    TV Coverage

    setanta {josquote}Setanta is the future. Alan Savage{/josquote}There has been a lot of debate on the site about TV coverage, both Setanta and Scotsport, the moving of games at short notice to suit the media, and other media related stuff such as broadcast blackouts .... Here's the questions that were submitted.

    Recently one of the ICT games was moved to accommodate its showing on Setanta TV at relatively short notice. This of course meant some ICT fans that had arranged travel were suddenly travelling to Inverness when there was no game on. What is your opinion of Monday night football in incidents like this? Given that the broadcaster had had ample time to arrange a schedule after it reached an agreement with the SPL do you feel that it is fair for games to be altered at such short notice when fans spend enough as it is following their team? Do you feel it could become a more attractive idea in the future with more careful planning? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: Setanta is the future – Football will be played every night. There will be some fall out, but we are trying with Police’s, Setanta’s and the SPL’S help to minimize it.

    stadium04 What are your personal thoughts on the moving of ICT's SPL fixtures to satisfy Live TV? Many fans (including myself) have to make travel plans well in advance to attend games and it is more than annoying when the fixture gets moved for this purpose especially when money has already spent on 'non refundable' cheap flights and B&B/Hotel accommodation. - Dave Wilson, Coventry

    AS: Setanta is the future – Football will be played every night. There will be some fall out, but we are trying with Police’s, Setanta’s and the SPL’S help to minimize it.

    Non-Weekend Fixtures: lower match attendances but have increased revenue from TV Income. Have you considered decreasing the match ticket price for these games in order to try and get the "Best of Both Worlds"? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: I will look into this and see what other clubs have experienced.

    blackout I live in Toronto, Canada and there is currently no way to obtain Setanta for live or even highlighted coverage so I have to rely on resources such as Radio Scotland to listen to most games. I find that more and more games are “blacked out” outside the UK as clubs have their own media arrangements in place (for example, the week we played Hearts, ONLY Motherwell V Falkirk was available on the net to listeners outside the UK, all others stated “for contractual reasons this match is only available to listeners in the UK”. As the club has control over their own broadcast rights, (and Hearts were broadcasting ICT V Hearts from their [premium TV] site to their subscribers) are there any plans to establish a subscription service so that ex-pats or those who cant make it to a game can tune in to audio and/or video coverage of all our matches? - Scott MacKenzie, Toronto, Canada

    AS: I will look into this and post the outcome on the website.

     

    What if …….. ?

    We had a couple of 'what-if?' questions submitted

    If I won the lottery and gave £1,000,000 to ICT, how would you like to use this money to benefit the club? - Laura Grant, Inverness

    AS: To secure a top 6 place.

    If you had your pick of any player in the world to bring to the ICT past or present who would it be? - Gary Donaldson, Stirling

    AS: Eric Cantona – just look what he did for Man U. A player who at the height of his career stayed on after training to practice his skills!

    {mospagebreak}

    Miscellaneous ....

    {josquote}Sing as loud as possible and bring a friend to every game. Alan Savage{/josquote} And finally we move on to a section we entitled "Miscellaneous" - a loose collection of questions either about the Chairman, his aims, or in some cases what appear to be 'in jokes' ..... in other words, stuff we couldnt fit in elsewhere!

    Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved with ICT. Were you an ICT supporter before being approached to join the board? Who did you support before ‘seeing’ the light and joining the ICT throng? - Scott MacKenzie, Toronto, Canada

    AS: I was nominated by David F Sutherland who thought I could carry on the good work he started at the Club. I did support ICT but due to personal circumstances it wasn’t as much as now. Man U is my English team.

    What is your ultimate aim or aims for ICT during your tenure at the club? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: To carry on the prudent management of the club I inherited form David F Sutherland, to increase investment, raise the profile and become a top 6 club.

    Supercaley We have come a long long way since we were formed in 1994. If you had a time machine and could nip forward a few years, how would you hope to see ICT portrayed in both the national and local media in say 5 or 10 years time. - Scott MacKenzie, Toronto, Canada

    AS: The David of UK football by beating a few Goliaths, to become every supporter outside our own fan base second team.

    What part can we the fans play in helping you to achieve your goals for the club? - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: Sing as loud as possible and bring a friend to every game.

    Do you have a particular favourite ICT game that you have attended either Home or Away? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: Rangers away 0-1.

    Who is your favourite ICT player both current and all time? - Andrew Sutherland, Aberdeen

    AS: Ian Black (when he’s not discussing decisions with match officials) and Charlie Christie.

    I wanted to get my mother something special for christmas. She's quite taken on Stuart McCaffrey and I wondered if he would be available on Christmas day? - We can discuss the financial terms over a coffee. - Donald Johnstone, Inverness

    AS: Milk and 1 sugar in mine.

    My missus needs a wee break as she has been working very hard, can i borrow your BMW 640 for the weekend to take her away? - Richard Murray, Inverness

    AS: Sold it, I don’t suppose my DB9 would be any good?

    tfc A new (MLS) club has just been formed in Toronto, and has imaginatively been called Toronto FC. A 20,000 all seated stadium is being constructed in the heart of downtown and former Celtic, Rangers and Scotland player Mo Johnston is the first head-coach. I am not sure if Charlie / Mo actually crossed paths at Parkhead as Mo left the club in 1987 and Charlie joined in 1987 but given Charlie and Danny’s (McDonald) fond memories of the city, any chance the much speculated North American pre-season training jaunt could pop in and play an exhibition game? - Scott MacKenzie, Toronto, Canada

    AS: What’s the directions?

    baku And finally ... we end with a question from Supporters Club Chairperson Mairi Maclean who asks this very strange question ...... obviously a bit of an 'in' joke ?

    Do you know how much a return train fare from Baku to Tbilisi costs and how long it takes? - Mairi Maclean, Inverness

    AS: 4 Million manats, 3 days, change at Kiev.

     

     

     {mospagebreak}

    Editors Comments

    One of the most enjoyable series of articles we have ever run on this site was "Boardroom Banter". This was a series of monthly articles that ran for nearly two years and bridged a period where the site was both unofficial and latterly became official. These articles were the brainchild of the website and former ICT Director Kenny Cameron although some credit should also go to Ken Thomson too.

    Boardroom Banter - for the uninitiated - contained answers/comments to some of the most frequently debated points on the site message boards in the previous month and directly answered other fan questions that were submitted via site email. BB also allowed the board to push information out to fans in an easy format. The comments about these articles were always positive and it was seen by many fans as a sign of the club making an effort to communicate with its customers.

    We applaud the Chairman for agreeing to take part in this session and are heartened by his comments that the Internet is a vital communication tool as some at the club have always resited the technology for whatever reason.

    Although this single Q&A session is nothing like a reinstatement of, or a replacement for, Boardroom Banter, hopefully it might become a semi regular feature if enough people are interested on both sides.

    We have already suggested a format to the club where both the official and unofficial sites could collaborate on semi-regular articles and hope that this comes to fruition, we wait to see if the fans want to take this opportunity as there were not that many different names asking the questions this time round .......

    Acknowledgements:

    Acknowledgemnts must go to all those who submitted questions, as well as the Chairman for answering them. We would also like to give thanks to Gordon Gillespie from NorthSport for providing the majority of the images used in this article

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