Becoming a professional footballer is a wasted dream for most of us, but historic Macclesfield Town are offering to sell the reality for a £20,000 investment in their cause, according to a report in the Macclesfield Express.
---UPDATE, 5pm ET, June 26: Macclesfield have decided not to go ahead with this offer, after admitting they had made an, "error of judgement,", as per a report by BBC Sport.
If you are selected and meet the conditions (details to follow), £20,000 will buy you a squad number, a week's training with the club and at least 10 minutes on in the field during a competitive league or cup match.
Having slipped into the non-league ranks and £500,000 into debt, the 139-year-old English club, whose Cheshire home makes them neighbours to Manchester United and City, are hoping to raise £50,000 before the new season starts in August, according to a report by BBC Sport.
Said Andy Scott, Macclesfield's associate director, in an interview with the Macclesfield Express:
It’s common knowledge that the club is in a precarious position and the club are looking at all avenues to keep the club running. John Askey (the club's manager) and the management have bought into the situation and it’s a wonderful opportunity for someone to become a professional footballer for a week.
As far as we know it has never been done before so it is a unique moment in English football.
To stand a chance of buying a one-week professional deal with the Silkmen, the Macclesfield Express reports potential investors must be aged between 18 and 35 and at a good level of fitness. It's not a requirement to be a Macclesfield fan, and the club are apparently encouraging interest from amateur players and former professionals.
Scott believes the benefit to Macclesfield outweighs any potential downside. There will no doubt be fans worried about undermining their club's heritage, and many may believe it will cheapen the status of professional footballers. But Scott says Town manager John Askey will able to time the 10-minute cameo so it doesn't negatively impact their season.
“If we are 3-0 up with 10 minutes to go that would be a good opportunity for John to utilise the situation." he said in his interview with the Macclesfield Express. "There’s absolutely no way we would do it unless it was the right moment in the right game.”
If nothing else, it's a clever PR move by Macclesfield, highlighting their fate and putting their cause in the media spotlight. Perhaps the real aim here is to boost season ticket sales and attract investment from elsewhere based on the profile generated from this release.
It may also be a sign of things to come. The precarious finances of football have clubs constantly seeking new ways to generate income, and this kind of offer may prompt others to follow suit.
The BBC reports Macclesfield's offer may be the first of its kind in English football. They also point out, however, that should the £20,000 investor make an appearance, it wouldn't be the first time somebody outside of a recognised club squad had featured for their team:
In 2003, Doncaster owner John Ryan appeared as a substitute in the final minute of Rovers' final 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.
So, what do you think? Would you pay £20,000 for the chance to make good on your dream to become a professional footballer—albeit just for a day? Is it right that Macclesfield are even allowed to make this offer?
Can you imagine the story if the investor plays and scores during his 10 minutes, somehow doing enough to earn himself a longer stay? Or what if he scores an own goal or makes a costly mistake that impacts Macclesfield's season?
What happens next will be fascinating. While Macclesfield fans might not like it, they may have to accept their club is just doing everything possible to ensure they continue a rich history that began way back in 1874.