Flat Hartlepool United ball keeps charity cash rolling in

Keith Johnson, Chair of Banardo's Durham Committee with the football ahead of the charity auction.
Keith Johnson, Chair of Banardo's Durham Committee with the football ahead of the charity auction.

A FLAT football is set to inflate a kids’ charity coffers for the 19th year running – after already raking in £7,000 for the cause.

The deflated Hartlepool United ball – believed to have been signed by the Pools team of 1986 – is to be auctioned for the 19th time.

The white blue and red ball was donated to the Barnardo’s Sportsman’s Dinner Durham in the early 90s along with other football memorabilia to be auctioned at the event by auctioneer Keith Johnson.

Keith was not particularly excited by the item but was pleased when he managed to sell it to an orthopaedic surgeon called Howard Epstein who paid £60 for it.

The medic started a tradition when he returned it for re-auction the following year, and this continued for several years with a condition that whoever bought it had to return it 12 months later.

Keith believed the leasing trend had ended though when a Hartlepool United supporter attended a dinner and offered to pay £500 to permanently keep the ball to put a stop to the light-hearted mickey taking of his club.

But the man returned the following year saying he “got the joke” and handed the ball back in a bid to roll in more cash for disadvantaged kids.

Last year it was bought by a property developer who has honoured the tradition and returned the ball to Keith, who once again has it sitting on his desk ahead of the auction on Friday, October 4, at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Carrville, Durham.

“It’s like our lucky charm,” said Keith, 66, chairman of JW Wood Estate Agents and of Banardo’s Durham Committee. “It just arrived with us amongst other memorabilia and to be honest I didn’t think much of it because not many people from Hartlepool would be attending our dinner in Durham.

“The first year I sold it was to a surgeon called Howard Epstein but a year later he returned it saying he was a Sunderland fan and he didn’t really want a Hartlepool United ball.

“He asked if I wanted to sell it again. It went from there really so I started leasing the ball out and it became a bit of a joke until one year, about nine years ago, a Hartlepool fan said he was sick of his team being the butt of our jokes and asked if he could buy it for £500.

“As the sum was so big I agreed, but then even he returned it the next year saying ‘I get the joke’, and asked if we wanted it back to raise more money.”

He added: “Last year we got £700 for it. So we’ll have to see if we can beat that this year.

“Altogether we’ve raised over £7,000 from the ball which has gone towards our total funds raised of £260,000.

“The ball has arrived back to me and is sitting on my desk now waiting.”