FOR most football fans, a tour of the stadium or getting to walk on the pitch would be the ultimate accolade.
Supporters of Hearts who backed fan ownership are to get even closer to the action after the club revealed plans to thank those who dug deep during their darkest days.
Each one of the almost 8000 fans who pledged cash will have their names emblazoned on one of the club’s new Puma strips.
They will be listed alphabetically, free from logos or advertising, in the symbolic display.
As the club closes in on the Championship title and promotion back to Scotland’s top flight, Foundation of Hearts chairman Ian Murray MP said the strip was a fitting tribute.
He said: “It’s been the most popular thing we have ever launched, and people are incredibly excited about having their name on an official Hearts strip.
“It is a really unique acknowledgement of their contribution to saving and rebuilding the club.”
The idea was first mooted by Dougie Masterton, a former director of the Foundation, and was developed by its founder members including Alex Mackie, Jamie Bryant, Brian Cormack and Garry Halliday.
Every fan who has donated at least £120 – the equivalent of 180 ‘maroon points’ in the Foundation’s loyalty scheme – will be included.
Mr Murray said: “A lot of people topped up if they were short of the 180 points to try to make up their contribution in time.”
Various options for the design are now being looked at, but it is understood that the strip will be inspired by American Major League soccer team Colorado Rapids.
Bosses there even sent a replica of their maroon strip to the Foundation to give them an idea of what the final kit could look like.
Designs will be drawn up by German sportswear giant Puma, which has signed a new manufacturing deal with Hearts. It is taking over from Adidas and will launch a new range of match and training kits ahead of next season, when Hearts are likely to be back in the Scottish Premiership.
The concept of fan tribute kits is becoming increasingly popular among football clubs.
English League One side Notts County commissioned a special limited-edition home shirt featuring the names of all season ticket holders, as did Italian Serie A side Parma.
The new Hearts kit would be the team’s third strip and will hit shops later this year.
Garry Halliday, director of the Foundation of Hearts, said he expected fans to snap it up and revealed the idea had sparked a fresh wave of members joining the supporters movement – with many stumping up £120 in one go to ensure their name appears.
He said: “It pushed the pledges up by 100 new members and pushed up the average monthly pledge for each member.”
A club spokesman said that the strip could be worn in charity matches, significant games or on important anniversaries.
The Maroon Points rewards scheme was launched in collaboration with the club in January. For every pound pledged, supporters are credited with 1.5 points. Fans who made 12 consecutive payments through the monthly Foundation membership fee will also see their names appear.