Hearts ditch sponsor Wonga over payday loan fears

Defender Danny Wilson wears the old Hearts strip with the Wonga logo. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Defender Danny Wilson wears the old Hearts strip with the Wonga logo. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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HEARTS have ditched controversial sponsor Wonga in a bid to distance the club from the payday loan firm and make a fresh start under the new regime at Tynecastle.

The deal with Wonga expired at the end of the season, but it is understood the company was interested in extending its three-year association with the club.

The new owners at Hearts decided to end the link and seek fresh corporate backers.

The club had already announced its home-strip shirts for next season would be blank in tribute to the members of the 1914-1915 Hearts team who joined McCrae’s Battalion in the First World War and paid the ultimate price for their bravery.

Earlier this week, the club unveiled its new away kit featuring the Foundation of Hearts crest in a huge thank you to supporters for helping to keep the club alive.

A source confirmed Wonga had put together a draft deal for the away strip.

They said: “It was felt it was in the best interests of the club to cut the ties. If it had been Care Bears or Toys R Us it might have been a more difficult ­decision.”

The source said the association with Wonga had not damaged the club, but it had dented sales of shirts. “Many parents felt it was not appropriate to have kids running around in shirts advertising a payday loan firm,” they said.

Hearts described the new strips as “more in tune with the community which is the backbone of the club”.

Ian Murray, chairman of Foundation of Hearts and Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said the new kit signalled a return to Hearts being a respected family club.

He said: “The club needs to lead by example and our shirt sponsors should reflect the aspiration to be the best family club in Scotland. Our supporters, who will ultimately own the club, deserve nothing less.”

Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who has led a campaign against payday lenders, welcomed the club’s decision.

She said: “We always shied away from taking on the links between Wonga and Hearts, partly because of the club’s problems. But now Hearts has a bright new future they are in a position to make judgement calls based on their values as a football club.”

A Wonga spokeswoman said: “With 2014/5 being the anniversary of the Hearts side that went off to fight in the Great War, and with the great idea to honour them via the home shirt, it felt appropriate to stand aside from any sponsorship deal this season.

“We wish the team luck in their promotion challenge.”