Macclesfield Town withdraw offer of first-team appearance for cash
Macclesfield Town have withdrawn their offer of a chance to play for the club in return for payment.
A £20,000 donation could have led to a successful applicant making a 10-minute appearance in the league or cup.
However the club ended the scheme and apologised for an "error of judgement".
It added: "We now recognise that it creates a possibility of altering the outcome of a competitive fixture and clearly crosses an important line with respect to the integrity of the game."
In a statement, the club continued: "We are therefore withdrawing the offer and would like to apologise unreservedly to the football authorities and to the Football Conference for our error of judgement in this matter."
Macclesfield are in a perilous financial position and need £100,000 by the end of August to survive.
"The 'pay to play' proposal was one of many innovative ideas that have been considered in the last few weeks to raise both funds and interest in the club. It was intended to be a light-hearted idea that would be of interest only to our local media," the club said.
The original offer
- One person can pay £20,000 to play for the Silkmen
- Only "fit males between 18 and 35" are able to apply
- They do not have to be a Macclesfield fan
- Club inviting interest from keen amateurs and ex-professional players
- Winning applicant will be given a squad number and a set of home, away and training kit
- Will train with the first team for a week and get a place in the club photo
- Play for 10 minutes of a Conference Premier or cup game at some point during the season
Earlier this month, Cheshire East Council gave the club £285,000 for the freehold of their Moss Rose ground.
Without those funds, associate director Andy Scott said Macclesfield would have been close to being handed a winding-up order, having ended last season £500,000 in debt.
They recently became a 'Community Interest Company' following a restructure of the club.
Before halting the scheme, Macclesfield had stressed that the appearance would happen at a convenient time during a match and would not significantly affect the team.
"We haven't got Manchester United's bank balance. We've got Macclesfield Town's bank balance, which is pretty desperate to say the least at the moment," Scott told BBC Radio Manchester. "If the club was in a strong financial position, perhaps we wouldn't even consider it."
Town were relegated from League Two in 2012, ending their 15-year stay in the Football League, and finished 11th in the Conference last season, although they earned significant funds from a run to the fourth round of the FA Cup - their best-ever performance in the competition.
Non-playing supporters featuring for their club is not a unique occurrence.
In 2003, Doncaster owner John Ryan appeared as a substitute in the final minute of their last league game of the Conference season at Hereford, and at the age of 52 years and 11 months became the oldest man to turn out for a professional club in England.
The Football Conference said they had not received any official notification of Macclesfield's plan and were unwilling to comment further.