The Dons have launched a fans’ funding scheme in a bid to slash the gap with Celtic and Rangers – and strengthen their position in Europe.

Pittodrie’s Commercial Director Rob Wicks believes the Dons are a sleeping giant – and the AberDNA is an initiative to wake it up and reach its full potential.

Wicks said: “The funding and all the income from this is going to enhance our position on the pitch.

“The fact it goes to the football operations can only be a good thing when you look at the wider objectives of the club in terms of Uefa Top 100. And really trying to close the gap at a domestic level to our friends in Glasgow and also widening the gap to those in Edinburgh who are starting to chase us.

“What sets AberDNA apart is that we have very openly, and very deliberately said any of the funds that come from the scheme are being directed straight to the football operations.

“Any members who sign up will have the opportunity to say how they want to see those funds allocated.

“We identified three key areas – the first team, youth academy and enhancing the high performance environment at the club. This is a new way in which the club can engage fans.”

There are four different packages that require monthly payments and come with a host of benefits – Premium (£18), Standard (£12), International (£18) and Under-12 (£8).

“We are hoping in the next couple of months to announce a couple of other initiatives more focused around the broader business community,” he added.

“We obviously have the naming rights around the new stadium and the match day experience for fans.

“There are a number of things we will be looking at on how we can bridge that gap.

“These are enormously exciting times ahead for the club. This is something of a sleeping giant and there is significant untapped potential on all levels.

“When you combine that potential with the great strides forward we have seen on the pitch in terms of what Derek and the coaching staff have delivered, there is a real potential for fantastic success.”

Hibs Supporters’ Limited has contributed £525,000 to the football budget. Hearts’ scheme has more than 8,000 members contributing in excess of £6.5m. Are the Reds anticipating a similar return?

Wicks said: “We haven’t put a final number on it as our scheme is being done for different reasons. “As I understand it, Hearts’ scheme was set up when they were in financial difficulty and it was really to try to stave off administration.

“What it does demonstrate is the power that the fans hold to get a club back to a strong position. “Ours is motivated and designed around other reasons.”

Aberdeen recently received the go-ahead for a £50m stadium and training complex at Kingsford. Wicks emphasised none of the AberDNA cash will be used to fund Kingsford.

He said: “I am sure some people will be thinking you have great news on the stadium and suddenly this membership scheme emerges – and will put two and two together. It is purely coincidence that the two have emerged simultaneously.”

The £10m for the training complex has been sourced, but there is still £40m to be found for the stadium.

Are the Reds confident financial streams can be sourced to ensure Kingsford does not put the club in debt?

Wicks said: “Very much so. A huge amount of work has been done to remove all the existing debt from the club.

“For a football club of Aberdeen’s standing and stature to be debt free is quite unusual in football and a fantastically strong position to be in.

“Looking forward we would like to look at as many innovative ways in really levering the value and the brand that is Aberdeen to drive revenues for the club so that we don’t get ourselves into any difficult positions.”

Aberdeen legend Sir Alex Ferguson said: “I am pleased to be backing this initiative which will support Derek and the entire football operation as they seek to build on the progress they have made over the past few years and strengthen Aberdeen’s position in Scotland and in Europe.

“It’s crucial for the success and sustainability of any club that players are produced from within and this will give Aberdeen a much better chance of doing that.”

Dons boss McInnes said: “The club is at its best when everyone is pulling in the same direction – players, management, staff and fans. When we have that we can be really powerful.

“The additional support this initiative can provide could be invaluable as we look to be the best Aberdeen that we can be.”