October 31, 2019 @ 16:46 by Steven Hugill
A five-a-side football pitch operator once courted by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct empire says 750 jobs have been saved after it agreed a sale with a market rival.
Goals Soccer Centres is to be acquired by Northwind 5s Limited.
Bosses say they have secured a pre-pack administration deal with Northwind – a new company backed by Inflexion Private Equity and Soccerworld – that will secure hundreds of jobs across Goals’ estate, which includes centres in Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
The deal comes just days after the collapse of an approach by Goals’ largest shareholder – and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s trainers and tracksuit operation – Sports Direct.
In an extraordinary outburst, the retailer walked away after accusing the firm of wiping out shareholders through “skulduggery,” adding it had suffered “limited and fitful access and co-operation” from Goals’ board, a claim that was subsequently denied by the football operator.
The sale marks a potential watershed moment for Goals, which has endured a tough period.
It previously revealed it had found evidence of “improper behaviour (that) involved a number of individuals for a period since at least 2010,” which mean there is “material uncertainty in relation to the historic financial statements published by the company.”
However, referring to its Northwind deal, officials said they hope it will mark a line in the sand for its fortunes and those of its 750-strong workforce.
A spokesperson said: “The board and management have worked tirelessly over the past eight months with advisers and lenders to identify and resolve the company’s issues relating to the misdeclaration of VAT and other serious accounting issues, dating back several years.
“A thorough and rigorous process has been carried out properly and systematically to achieve a final outcome to this very difficult situation.
“Every avenue has been fully explored to deliver the best possible outcome for all stakeholders in the business.
“Through this transaction, the livelihoods of 750 staff will have been secured and Goals’ customers will continue to be able to enjoy playing small-sided football at all its centres across the UK and US.
“The board hopes that, once the future of the business of the company has been protected, it will be able to continue to grow and prosper.”
Sports Direct launched an angry broadside against Goals following the breakdown of its potential deal, saying it believed “it would be convenient for those concerned if Goals, and its corporate history, disappeared.”