Mike Ashley-backed Goals Soccer Centres put up for sale | Business



Goals Soccer Centres, the struggling five-a-side football pitch operator in which Sports Direct-owner Mike Ashley holds a significant stake, has been put up for sale.

The company, which is to delist from the London Stock Exchange after revealing a £12m tax accounting scandal stretching back at least a decade, was valued at just over £20m when trading of its shares was suspended in March.

Goals, which employs 700 people across 45 UK sites and four in the US, appointed Deloitte in June to assess strategic options, including a potential sale.

“The company confirms it has today commenced a process to invite offers for the business and assets of the company,” Goals said in a stock market statement on Thursday. “There is no certainty as to the timetable or outcome of this process. Shareholders will continue to be kept informed of developments as appropriate.”

Earlier this month an investigation by Goals, which is 19%-owned by Ashley’s Sports Direct, uncovered “improper behaviour” by a number of individuals in the company in the preparation of its financial accounts dating back to at least 2010.

The company said that the discovery meant it would be unable to file its financial results by the end of September. Failure to meet the deadline means trading in the shares cannot resume and the company is to be delisted.

Ashley, who has been at loggerheads with the company’s board for months over the accounting errors, first invested in Goals in 2015.

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Goals has said that, off-field issues aside, the business has been performing well, with revenues up 11.5% in the UK and 14.5% in the US in the year to 2 August – the last time it reported a trading update.

Goals said its on-field performance has given the company’s lenders the confidence to confirm they will continue to back the business, keeping existing debt facilities in place to allow it to trade. Goals had net debt of £29m at the end of 2018.

In May, the chief executive, Andy Anson, was appointed head of the British Olympic Association after just over a year in the Goals job. The Goals founder, Keith Rogers, who floated the company in 2004, stepped down as chief executive in 2016 and left the business a year later.