A hat-trick of generous bidders has paid £9,000 for an old, deflated Hartlepool United football.
The football is traditionally auctioned off at a sportsman's dinner held annually in County Durham for children's charity Barnardo's.
The winning bidder usually takes the ball home before returning it ahead of the following year’s event.
But this year three guests bought the ball during the night – with the last handing it back to organiser Keith Johnson before going home.
In total, the dinner raised a record amount of more than £30,000 for the charity.
Mr Johnson, chairman of JW Wood Estate Agents, said the event at the Ramside Hall Hotel, in Carrville, near Durham City, had been a “tremendous success”.
“It was out 20th anniversary and we had hoped to raise £20,000 but to raise more than £30,000 was incredible.
“The Hartlepool ball alone raised £9,000 – it was bought three times but it kept being given back.
“Nobody even took it home – it now sits back in the offices of JW Wood where it will stay until next year.”
North-East property developer Trevor Cartner, of Helios Properties, paid £5,000 for the ball, before Newcastle accountant Michael Leather and Ian Marley, of South Shields- based Kans and Kandy, each paid £2,000.
Janice Heathcote, Barnardo’s North East community fundraising manager, said the charity was delighted by the donation.
“We are delighted with the astounding amount of money raised by so many generous people, which will help to make a real difference to the lives of so many vulnerable children here in the region.
“We are immensely grateful for their support over so many years and it is a delight to work with them,” she added.
The ball was donated 18 years ago and is believed to have been signed by the Pools team of 1986.
Orthopaedic surgeon Howard Epstein paid £60 for it, however he returned the ball the following year so it could be auctioned again, and a tradition was born.
The charity dinner has raised almost £300,000 for Barnardo’s since its launch.
Source: The Northern Echo