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Minister Launches Highland Football Academy

Representatives from Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC and Ross County FC teamed up with Dr Elaine Murray, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, to announce at Inverness Sports Centre the launch of the Highland Football Academy following a Lottery Fund award of 1m as part of sportscotland's commitment to help create a network of football academies throughout Scotland and 300,000 from the reduction in pools betting duty monies (RPBD) also administered by sportscotland. The academy will be spread over three sites in Dingwall and Inverness.

The academies have been created in order to develop young footballing talent throughout Scotland, with the emphasis on identifying, coaching and developing young players, particularly those who have the potential to progress into the first teams of Scotland's top professional football clubs.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County Football Clubs and The Highland Council have been the main partners in bringing this initiative to the Highlands, and will work together with local feeder clubs and school based teams.

In addition to meeting the technical football training requirements of the players, the academies will also cater for the wider development of the young athletes by providing services such as sports medicine, including physiotherapy, sports science and support and advice on education and career development.

The Dingwall campus will include comprehensive training and support facilities, an indoor football training area, full sized natural grass pitches, a synthetic grass pitch with floodlighting and a specialist goalkeeper training facilities. Strength and conditioning facilities, sports medicine areas and additional natural and synthetic pitches will be located in Inverness. Football Academy awards have previously been made to Rangers FC, Kilmarnock FC and Heart of Midlothian FC, with the Rangers Academy now up and running.

Dr Elaine Murray, Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, said: "I am delighted with today's announcement of the award made to support the development of the Highland Football Academy. The Scottish Executive took the lead in bringing the football bodies and others together to draw up a blueprint for academies and put in place a funding package. Today sees another step forward in delivering our commitment to establish academies around Scotland, providing first class facilities and support services to develop our young footballing talent."

Alastair Dempster, Chairman of sportscotland, said: "This co-ordinated approach to youth development in Scottish football will have an important impact on the game nationally, not only in increasing the number of talented Scottish players progressing to first team and national levels but also in the knock on effect it will have in improving the soccer skills base of young Scottish footballers.

"I hope to see the example being set today by the Highlands as our fourth venture into football academies inspire other clubs to come on board and help us continue creating a network of quality training and coaching facilities throughout Scotland."

Convenor of The Highland Council, David Green, said: "We are very pleased to be involved in the partnership which is driving forward the Highland Football Academy. Developing opportunities for the youth of our area is a key goal and the Council is delighted to be able to support this initiative through the provision of land for specialist upgraded football pitches at Jubilee Park, Dingwall and Charleston Academy, Inverness. The Highland initiative is unique in that this football academy will be the first to have two senior football clubs leading on this thanks to a great deal of partnership working to date between the Council and the two clubs and we look forward to developing this relationship."

David Sutherland, Chairman of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, said: "We're delighted to take part in the process of helping to attract this very welcome public investment in the creation of the Highland Football Academy. My club has been very keen from the start that such an academy should come into being to act as a catalyst for the young people of the Highlands so they may gain the fullest opportunities to develop their skill, both for leisure enjoyment and for the chance to earn a career in the game."

Chief Executive of Ross County, Alastair Kennedy, said: "This is great news for football in the Highlands. The Highland Football Academy will provide new and better facilities for anyone to enjoy the sport of football. Our application covered both participation and excellence, as we feel this is right for our Highland community and I am delighted sportscotland are providing the financial support to kick-start this project."

Roger Mitchell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Premier League (SPL), said: "Seeing the Highlands coming on board is excellent news for Scottish football of all levels. The SPL are fully behind sportscotland's Football Academies Programme and we are delighted to see it continue progressing and wish those involved today the very best of luck."

Craig Brown, Director of Development at the Scottish Football Association (SFA), said: "We are delighted to hear that sportscotland will be supporting Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County in establishing their football development centres for young footballers.

"The Highlands have always had good players and coaches but up until now, it has lacked the central facilities to develop these players to the best of their abilities. The sportscotland Lottery Fund will be tremendously helpful in addressing this."

Peter Donald, Secretary of the Scottish Football League (SFL), said: "We are delighted to hear that SFL clubs are benefiting from sportscotland's Academies Programme and believe it is an excellent reflection on what has been achieved by Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County since they joined the first division."

  • Under the proposals put forward by the Scottish Football Taskforce, the body set up by the Scottish Executive to provide recommendations on how the football academies should be run, academies will be geographically spread across Scotland and will work with one another for the development of football nationally as well as regionally, assisted by the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Institute of Sport.
  • It is an essential requirement of sportscotland Lottery Fund's award that some of the facilities provided with the assistance of the award are available for access by the community for football training.
  • Each Football Academy will employ specialist coaching and development staff including an U21 coach, an U18 coach, a physiotherapist, an education and welfare officer, part-time age group coaches, a strength and conditioning coach and a specialist goalkeeping coach.