A Highland football club is hoping to bring a global audience to matches after their unique kits became a viral success.
Loch Ness FC, newly admitted to the North Caledonian League for the upcoming season, were thrust into the limelight after they launched Nessie-themed kits earlier this year.
The unique shirts were a hit online, and were shared to hundreds of thousands worldwide on the BBC’s Match of the Day account. As a result, the club was inundated with orders from every corner of the globe for the first kit they’ve ever put on sale.
Chairman and manager Shane Carling, who started the club when he was 17, said:
“We’ve sold roughly 2,200 kits so far and they keep selling every day.
“We’ve not sold a lot in the local Inverness area, but we’ve had a lot of orders in England. The Americans have bought a lot too – they don’t just buy one top, they buy every top, the cap, the jumpers.
“We’ve had orders from Canada and Australia, and Holland are quite into it as well. We’ve also sold to Israel, Hungary, all over Europe, Russia, China, Japan.
“It’s remarkable where it’s all going, just for the sake of having a Loch Ness monster on the top. I wish I’d done it a long time ago!”
Shane hopes to capitalise on the success of the kits, which are made from 100% recycled plastic by sustainable clothing business Zero Negativity, by broadcasting games online once the league gets up and running.
He also hopes some of his new loyal legion of fans will be able to visit to take in a match once the pandemic subsides.
“We’ve had a lot of people asking when our season starts because they want to come and do a tour of Loch Ness and watch one of our games,” he said. “It’s attracting a fanbase which is good.
“If we get people to come over and watch our games that’ll be brilliant. We’re also going to film games and stream live on Facebook from the matches so people can watch it from abroad. Hopefully we can get a good response.”
After so many years at the helm, Shane admits it was a big shock to see his club make it into the global limelight.
And the money raised from kit sales will prove helpful in uncertain times for Scotland’s small football clubs.
He said: “For something I’ve been doing so long and putting in effort and my own money season after season, to get this is a big relief in a way. It has come at the right time.”
Shane started the team 21 years ago. He and a friend had grown up playing in the local youth leagues and decided to bring a group of pals together to put a team into the amateur set-up.
They became Loch Ness FC, and are now stepping up to semi-professional level after being admitted into the North Caledonian League’s Division Two for the upcoming truncated season.
When the league gets underway, they’ll be welcoming the likes of Alness United, local rivals Inverness Athletic and Highland League side Nairn’s reserves to their home at Bught Park in Inverness.
The home shirt will be sponsored by WooHa Brewing Company, which has also created a limited edition Loch Ness FC Lager.
“There’s always been a fanbase that’s followed Loch Ness,” Shane said. “We’ve been in amateur football for 20 years, and this is us taking a step up now.
“We’ve got quite a friendship with locals that keep watching our games through the summer seasons. We just need to start kicking a ball now and everyone’ll be happy.”
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