Goals to score with £200m sale two years after stock market red card

The owner of Goals Soccer Centres is looking to cash in on its investment two years after the operator of 5-a-side football pitches was forced to delist from the London stock market amid an apparent fraud.

Sky News has learnt that Inflexion Private Equity has hired advisers from Clearwater International to launch an auction of the leisure group.

City sources said on Thursday that a deal could value Goals at about £200m.

The sale process will cap a turnaround for Goals, whose 15-year stint as a listed company ended in acrimonious circumstances.

Image: Goals was a listed company for 15 years

It counted Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, among its largest shareholders, with the sportswear tycoon at one stage considering an offer for the business.


Inflexion teamed up with Barry and Ian McDermott, Goals’ founders, to buy the business through a pre-pack administration in late 2019.

Much of the subsequent period has seen trading impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but sales are thought to have recovered strongly as people seek to take advantage of post-lockdown freedoms.

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Goals operates more than 450 pitches across 42 centres in the UK, with a workforce of over 700 people.

It competes with Power League, another privately owned operator.

Goals’ descent into chaos over a period of several months in 2019 came after the emergence of an apparent accounting fraud.

The company’s VAT liabilities were alleged to have been wrongly declared for several years, prompting some former directors to submit a dossier to the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Ashley lambasted the move as “far too little too late and a deliberate case of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted”.

Goals’ red card from the London stock market came after it began investigating what it described as “improper behaviour on the part of a small number of individuals historically within the company”.

The accountancy firm BDO produced a report alleging that Goals’ former chief executive and chief financial officer colluded to produce fictitious invoices.

Keith Rogers, Goals’ former chief executive and the architect of its stock market flotation, had denied any wrongdoing, while Bill Gow, the former finance chief, did not comment on the allegations.

The current status of any ongoing inquiries into directors’ conduct is unclear.

Inflexion declined to comment.