Charity begins at home as big Hearts find way to help and honour their own

Despite lazy opinions to the contrary, one of Scottish football’s top chief executives has insisted the sport is a force for good in this country.

Speaking at the launch of Hearts’ new home kit, the club’s chief executive Andrew McKinlay said he was proud to see MND Scotland taking pride of place on the front of the shirts, as part of an innovative two-year sponsorship deal with Dell Technologies, which will provide a platform to promote and support the charity’s work.

While Dell Technologies will cover the cost of the sponsorship, Hearts will, in turn, make a contribution to MND Scotland and MND Association with the sale of every top.

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It is an ongoing reminder of the work clubs do to benefit their communities and also pays tribute to several Jambos who were blighted by the illness, including 2012 Scottish Cup winning captain Marius Zaliukas, ex SPL chairman, a driving force behind the Foundation of Hearts and former board member Robert Wilson and the founder of MND Scotland John Macleod, who was a huge Hearts fan.

All had their lives cut short by Motor Neuron Disease.

Work on the partnership was already underway when news of Zaliukas’ death broke, in October.

“I remember the news of Marius’ death broke at half time when we were playing Hibs at Hampden,” said McKinlay. “We were all a bit stunned by it to be honest and it would be great for me to say it was all part of this but that was a coincidence.

“But it’s great that we can do this as a tribute to him and to all the other sufferers and people who have died from this horrible disease. We hope we can start seeing cures for this disease. From a Scottish football perspective, the one that resonates with me, before Marius died, was Fernando Ricksen. It was horrendous to watch the journey that he went on. To see the support for people who suffer like that is great. It’s a cause we are delighted to hopefully help. For every shirt that our fans buy, money will go to MND Scotland. They can genuinely say they are helping the cause, which is great.”

Sidestepping lucrative deals with the likes of gambling firms or money lenders, as was the case in the past, had not been easy but the effort to find an alternative had been worth it to safeguard the club’s ethos.

“As you know, from when Ann took over the club, we’ve had Save the Children on the shirt. We don’t have any tie-ups with gambling companies, for example – and that’s been difficult in Scottish football, as you know, for the last few years. They’ve dominated the scene. So we’ve worked really hard to get tie-ups such as this.

“Every club in Scotland, from top to bottom, does a huge amount of charitable work. And we don’t shout about it enough. Yes, there are some things we would like to change. But it is a force for good in so many ways.”

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