Non-league club Hashtag United are set to make history by receiving a six-figure transfer fee – for an esports FIFA player.
Hashtag, founded in 2016 by YouTuber Spencer Owen, currently play in the Isthmian League Division One North, which is at level eight in the English football pyramid.
Away from the muck and nettles of the non-league football, Hashtag, as their name would suggest, are also making waves online and boast a thriving esports team.
Tom Leese, 22, is considered one of the best FIFA players in the world and is currently under contract with Hashtag – but maybe not for much longer.
That's because the Tags have received two offers for the England international eLion, believed to be somewhere in the region of £50,000 to £100,000, according to Sky Sports.
Big money transfers have reportedly taken place in other esports disciplines, notably Fortnite, but this is believed to be the first of its kind for FIFA.
The game's elite professional players can earn around £10,000 a month and their social media profiles are lucrative advertising space for sponsors.
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Leese himself has close to 50,000 followers across Instagram and Twitter, showing the potential reach of linking up with an esports player.
"Organisations sign a player like this to grow their brand and attract sponsors.
If they get the best player they'd gain access to significantly better sponsorship opportunities," a source told Sky Sports News.
In an interview with SPORTbible earlier this year, Leese revealed how his parents supported him in his decision to try and become a full-time esports player once he finished his A-Levels.
"I went to a tournament and won some prize money there," Leese said.
"I made an agreement with my mum that if I can do my A-Levels to the highest level and take school seriously for the rest of the year, I can try and make the climb into full-time FIFA when I finish.
"It was just making sure I had some grades and education behind me if it goes wrong. They were pretty supportive, a bit confused – I had to explain the whole concept of what was going on as it's very new to everyone.
"I didn't expect my parents to fully understand but they supported me all the way and said, 'if you're going to try something like this, it's best to do it when you're young'.
"I'm glad they let me do it because it's been a good decision."
He now spends up to 10 hours a day practising his skills and won £20,000 when representing Watford in the ePremier League last summer.
It is not yet known whether Leese has agreed personal terms with the unnamed interested party, or whether Hashtag have accepted an offer for his services.
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