Chesterfield Football Club has shocked fans, by admitting they invented a fake winner for their raffle to attend the club's pre-season training camp in Hungary. The raffle only attracted a handful of entrants (at £10 each), so 'Surrey-based James Higgins' was dreamed up, and announced as the winner.
The Sun reported that suspicions were raised as soon as the winner was announced, because fans of the League One side had never heard of him - and there was no press picture of him winning.
Jonno Turner, a journalist and Chesterfield fan, reported that one die-hard fan travelled to see the club play in Hungary, and said there was no sight of James Higgins at the game.
Shortly after this was raised, the club asked fans to spare a thought for the winner, who was apparently too ill to go on the trip. The post on the website referring to his illness has since been deleted.
Things got even stranger when the club said that anyone who asked for a refund from the raffle would get their money back - raising questions as to why a legitimate raffle would compensate the losers.
According to The Guardian, yesterday the club admitted to making the whole thing up. In a written statement, Club director and Secretary Ashley Carson told fans: "I have discovered that a winning entry was not legitimate and the information supplied to the club's communications department had clearly been falsified with regards to the winner of a place at the pre-season training camp."
All entrants have been given their money back.
Jonno Turner has tweeted his disappointment in detail, adding "Got to laugh. Or I'd cry." He added: "If it wasn't for those pesky fans, they'd have gotten away with it."
Other fans have also taken to social media to express their disgust and disappointment at how they could have been so badly misled, and how anyone could have thought that inventing a winner was the best way to wriggle out of a failed fundraising idea.
Other commentators have seen the funny side. As radio presenter Danny Baker said: "Outrage! And it was such a popular competition too." Graham Smyth, Chesterfield FC reporter for the Derbyshire Times, meanwhile, tweeted: "The funny thing is that Chesterfield do have a fan called James Higgins. He follows me. Nice chap. 'Hilarious coincidence' in his words."