A disgraced former pub landlord has been jailed for 12 months after he did a runner with cash paid out by Rotherham United fans for a plane trip to Plymouth to watch the Millers.
Lee Mills collected £16,500 from more than 70 Rotherham United supporters for the dream away trip to the south coast by plane – but then vanished.
Sheffield Crown Court heard more than 70 fans paid up to £240 each for a seat on a chartered plane which was advertised by Mills.
He said it would fly from Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport to Exeter in time for the match at Plymouth.
But, although Mills did enquire about chartering an aircraft for the trip with Rob Dore, owner of Private Jet Hire, no booking was ever made.
Mills disappeared from The Hare and Hounds pub, on Wellgate in Rotherham town centre, just days before the last away game of the season on Saturday, April 20.
Pub company Punch Taverns had to step in, along with Rotherham United FC, to pay for coaches to take the fans to the game.
The Millers beat Plymouth, winning the game 1-0.
Mills, aged 39, of Bury, Greater Manchester, admitted two offences of fraud and theft and was jailed for a year at Sheffield Crown Court.
The court heard South Yorkshire Police received more than 40 complaints after he vanished and officers later tracked him down.
Mills used to run coaches to away football games before he offered to charter the plane in a season when the club were promoted to Division One.
The 600-mile round trip was the longest of the season for the buoyant Millers’ supporters.
In a later posting on the Rotherham supporters’ website, MillersMAD – a man purporting to be Mills – said he was ‘embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated’ and promised to compensate those affected.
Punch Taverns said he walked out of the pub without notice.
They stepped in to provide food and refreshments at the pub for the furious fans before coaches left to take them to Plymouth.
At the time one 40-year-old supporter, who asked not to be named, said he had paid £480 for two tickets for himself and his son.
He said: “It’s a lot of money but it’s not so much the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”
The club’s arrangement with Punch Taverns to put on coaches resulted in the biggest following Rotherham had ever taken to Plymouth – around 800 supporters.
The win was one in a string of five successive victories and helped Rotherham United clinch promotion.