Scottish Championship football club Inverness Caledonian Thistle (ICT) has set a new attendance record from behind closed doors after shifting more than 7,820 virtual tickets for its upcoming game against Hearts.
The match, scheduled to kick off on February 26 with tickets still on sale, surpasses the club’s record of 7,753, which was set against Rangers in 2008 at the 7,822-capacity Caledonian Stadium.
ICT said it is “astonished and full of gratitude to the fans of all clubs who have bought tickets so far,” with Hearts showing the most support.
Scot Gardiner, chief executive of ICT, told BBC Scotland: “It’s blown us away. 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.”
Fans can either purchase a £5 virtual ticket or pay £10 for a souvenir match ticket and thank you letter, signed by Inverness manager and Hearts legend John Robertson.
The tickets went on sale on Saturday, with over 4,700 snapped up within 24 hours, including 1,000 in a 90-minute period.
The initiative follows a similar move from non-League club Marine FC, which sold more than 30,000 virtual tickets for its 5-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in its third round FA Cup match last month.
Chorley followed in the footsteps of its fellow non-League football club in shifting more than 2,000 virtual tickets for its glamour FA Cup draw against Premier League opposition Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Image: Inverness Caledonian Thistle