Hundreds of football shirts left as a tribute to Sir Tom Finney on The Splash statue at Deepdale will be given to disadvantaged children around the world.
Members of the Tom Finney Soccer Centre handed over bags full of the shirts to Kid Aid on Saturday at the UCLan Sports Arena having spent weeks cleaning the memorabilia, which had been stored at Deepdale since February.
The shirt-covered statue become a symbol of the city’s grief for North End legend Sir Tom in the days after his death aged 91, in February.
Hundreds of fans placed items with personal messages around the iconic sculpture as a farewell gesture.
Peter Mason, chairman of the Sir Tom Finney Soccer Centre, said: “There were hundreds, too many to count. When you see a picture of The Splash covered in them, you can only see a fraction of what we had.
“Many of the shirts were sodden and it was a big job cleaning them all - it took weeks - but it was very nice to be able to hand them over to the charity with the help of members of children’s disability team, who loved it and thought it was a great idea.
“The vast majority were North End shirts of all different eras, but we also had a lot from all across the North West and the rest of the country, including Blackpool, Blackburn, Manchester United and Wigan. It shows that Sir Tom’s popularity transcended football rivalries.”
He added: “We did research on what to do with the shirts and came across Kit Aid, a really well-established charity, and in my view it’s a fitting use of the shirts and in keeping with Sir Tom views.
“For the Soccer Centre to assist in this has been both a pleasure and a privilege.”
Sir Tom’s son Brian Finney and daughter Barbara Herbert said they were glad the shirts would be helping charitable cause.
Brian said: “It’s just amazing that people will do all this for a good cause, and what’s really important is that the people of Preston know what happened to those shirts.”
Kit Aid, whose patron is former England manager Graham Taylor, has sent 225,000 items of kit to countries including South Africa and St Lucia since being founded in 1998.
The charity was also involved in handling the shirts left at Newcastle United after the death of Sir Bobby Robson in 2009. African countries will be among the recipients of the Sir Tom tribute items.
Derrick Williams, founder of Kit Aid, said: “We are very proud to be associated with Sir Tom Finney and we will help his legacy live on by finding a good home for the shirts dedicated in his memory.
“Children and adults in Africa will be extremely happy to receive the shirts, as it means that can play the game they all love.”
Kit Aid is now also looking to collect the scarves left in tribute by Preston fans at the statue, and hope they can be sent to the needy in Eastern Europe.