A major figure at Chesterfield FC has been sacked in disgrace after it was revealed that the club created a bogus winner for its raffle competition.
The Sky Bet League One club apologised to fans in a statement on Tuesday and commercial manager Kevin Fitzgerald has departed in disgrace after an internal investigation, prompted by a tip-off, revealed he had invented a bogus winner of a raffle, for which only four tickets had been sold.
The winning prize was a trip for two to join up with Chesterfield’s pre-season training camp in Hungary earlier this month.
Fans got in touch to ask who had won the prize and the club then announced the supposed winner, Surrey-based James Higgins, on their official website.
They later wished him a “get well” message in a post online saying the winner could not make the trip due to illness.
Fans then questioned why the club was offering refunds for the competition after announcing a ‘winner’ had been chosen.
Spireites director Ashley Carson said in a statement released on the club’s website on Wednesday: “I am still reeling from the shameful incident that has attracted nationwide headlines for the football club for all the wrong reasons.
“After a thorough internal investigation, I can now confirm that the person responsible for this total farce has now left the football club.
“Kevin Fitzgerald has been a hardworking, respected, likeable employee who has, for some reason, made a massive error of judgement and has subsequently paid the consequences for his actions.
“The board were unaware of his actions and have taken swift action after uncovering the truth.
“I do hope that we can look for a replacement to head our commercial department, move forward and pick up the pieces from the whole sorry mess.
“Finally, I want to confirm that all other lotteries/raffles run by the club, which are so valuable to providing funds, are in no way affected by this isolated incident.”
Carson had been personally tipped off by a supporter who had concerns about the competition.
The club declared the competition winner on their website on July 14 and the announcement read: “Spare a thought for Surrey-based Spireite James Higgins, who won the raffle for a couple of places on the club’s pre-season training camp in Hungary.
“James was due to fly out with the party last weekend, but illness prevented him from travelling. It was hoped that he and a friend would be able to travel a few days later in time to watch Wednesday’s practice match against Limassol, but he failed to recover in time.
“James, who is naturally very disappointed to have missed out on the trip, will be invited to a game during the forthcoming season as a guest of the club and be treated to hospitality.
“As a gesture of goodwill, all those who entered the raffle are entitled to a refund. Please contact the club to make the necessary arrangements.”