Hibs legend Pat Stanton has saluted the Easter Road fans for their unwavering financial support for the club during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the Scottish game having been on hiatus since mid-March, supporters of the Capital club have stepped up with more than 10,000 season tickets for the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season sold at the time of writing, even with no confirmation on when supporters will be allowed to return to football stadiums for live games.
Matches in England and in other countries are currently being played behind closed doors, while some clubs in Scotland are arranging for cardboard cutouts of fans to be displayed in the stands when the new campaign gets under way but in spite of the uncertainty, Hibs fans have jumped at the chance to support their club in whatever way they can.
As well as season ticket sales, record numbers of people have thrown their support behind the Hibernian Supporters fans’ organisation, previously known as HSL.
Membership has swelled to more than 3,300 contributors, an increase of more than 800 since the start of the pandemic and within touching distance of the group’s initial target of 4,000.
Former Hibs captain Stanton, who played for the club between 1963 and 1976 and later returned as manager in the early 1980s, has applauded the fans for the way they have backed Hibs in their numbers during a period of great uncertainty for all football clubs.
"It doesn't surprise me in the least that the Hibs support have dug deep to help the club,” he told the Evening News.
"It doesn't matter what club it is, the fans are vital. The way things are at the present, everything is so unusual.
“[The coronavirus pandemic] is something that's not happened before, it’s unprecedented, but it's really good to see supporters getting behind their clubs.
"The fans have got behind [Hibs] and even though there are a lot of people having difficult times at the moment, and some of them are having a really difficult time of it, they have still found it possible to get behind the club.
“The fans are really standing up and being counted,” he added.
With the Scottish Premiership due to resume on 1 August – albeit without fans initially – the financial situation for many clubs is now a lot clearer.
Like many teams, Hibs have had to tighten their belt in recent weeks. Wage deferrals of between 20 and 50 per cent have been in place since the Scottish game entered hiatus in March and the club is currently in the midst of a consultation period with players and a number of non-playing staff and employees.
Money raised by Hibernan Supporters contributors is now being funnelled into the club on a monthly basis to boost the player budget available to head coach Jack Ross, with more than £24,000 raised during the month of June alone. Fans have been encouraged to sign up for a monthly contribution or simply make a one-off donation to help the club come through the pandemic and perform on the park next term.
Stanton, who was presented with an honorary membership at the organisation's first AGM in March 2016, has been vocal in his appreciation of the club’s supporters, both during his time as player and manager and in the present day.
He continued: “With Hibs, it's really the fans' club. I know there are the people who run the club – and they do a great job – as well as those who own the club, but when you boil it all down, the fans are always there as the backbone of things.
"They come along on a Saturday and it is the fans that make it what it is. I really think a lot of clubs are more and more aware now, because of the way things are going, of just how important the fans actually are.”