A Lower League English Club Is In Hot Water After A Fan Raffle Went Awry

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English football has no shortage of weird stories. But this is something else.

Back in May, Chesterfield FC announced a raffle for supporters. The East Midlands club, currently playing in League One, sold tickets for £20 a pop with the grand prize being a trip to travel with the first team to their preseason training camp in Hungary.

The winner was supposed to be announced on June 7th. But the day came and went with no announcement. The fans immediately deduced something weird was going on.

The team did announce, eventually and unceremoniously, that the winner of the raffle was a Mr. James Higgins of Surrey. But fans noticed that the fan that ended up travelling to Hungary wasn’t Higgins. The team released a statement saying that Higgins had fallen ill and couldn’t make the trip, and another fan was chosen to take his place. They also sent published a Get Well Soon message for Higgins.

But wait! There’s more.

A few days later, club director and company secretary Ashley Carson released an astonishing statement: the 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.”

In other words: James Higgins did not exist.

It was also revealed that only four tickets were sold in the raffle. “Chesterfield Football Club apologises unreservedly to the four supporters who entered the competition and we can assure all supporters that following the internal review, disciplinary action will be taken.”

This is, of course, the latest in a string of PR disasters for Chesterfield. The club was roundly (and rightfully) criticized last month when they announced the signing of 27-year-old striker Ched Evans. The former Sheffield United player was convicted of rape in 2012 and sentenced to five years in prison. He only served half of that sentence and was released in October 2014. Since then, he’s been searching for a club— any club— to give him a second chance. Chesterfield, it seemed, were willing to suspend their sense of decency for the sake of depth up top. In the wake of that announcement, sponsors started withdrawing their support of the club. Chesterfield chairman Dave Allen responded by doubling-down on their support of the convicted rapist, saying the club were “delighted to have secured the services of an outstanding footballer, who is now keen to get back to work and score goals.”

It’s hard not to feel for Chesterfield fans.