Five-a-side football specialist Goals Soccer Centres has launched an expansion campaign after raising £11.4 million from shareholders to fund the development of more sites on both sides of the Atlantic.
The East Kilbride-based firm has also teamed up with BT Sport to bring the telecoms giant’s football coverage and wi-fi access to its network of 43 sites across the UK, while US sportswear firm Warrior – supplier of kit to Liverpool FC – will be providing footballs under a wider marketing deal.
Goals put its growth plans on ice in 2012 to focus on tackling its debt pile and boosting returns from its existing sites, which include a centre in Los Angeles, but managing director Keith Rogers said the company was now ready to pursue its expansion strategy.
Two sites are planned this year and next in the UK, while three more centres are due to open in LA by 2016. California is the largest football market in the US, with about two million players.
Rogers said: “There remains a significant opportunity with, we estimate, the potential for at least 100 additional centres within the UK. With limited competitor activity, no new market entrants and on-going high barriers to entry, Goals is well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.”
While a growing number of companies – including Alliance Trust, Shell and Standard Life – have voiced concerns over Scottish independence in recent weeks, Rogers, pictured right, said Goals does not see September’s referendum as a risk. He added: “One great thing about football is it’s a global sport. We’re exporting football to the rest of the UK and now America. While we’re not taking a stance either way, independence wouldn’t really affect us.”
The Aim-quoted firm raised £11.4m through an oversubscribed share placing to meet the costs of its expansion drive, which have been put at £1.7m per centre in the UK and £2.4m in LA.
Goals has just three sites in Scotland – two in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen – but Rogers told The Scotsman that he has no plans to grow its presence north of the Border.
He said: “We’re a Scottish success story, but the reality is the market lies down south.
“This is a high footfall business, and that’s where we need to go.”
Results published today showed that pre-tax profits grew to £9.6m in 2013, up from £9.5m a year earlier, on sales 4 per cent higher at £33.7m.
Although takings from the firm’s bars and vending machines continued to fall as customers cut back on after-game drinks, the decline slowed to 3 per cent in the second half, from 7 per cent in the first six months of the year.
Rogers said: “It’s a societal change – guys are much more interested in fitness and body image, and the idea of sitting at the bar after a game of football is anathema. Having said that, we make a lot more profit from football than selling beer, so we’d rather see people playing for fitness than sitting in the bar.”
Having embraced social media through a trial of recorded match highlights for sharing over the internet, Goals will be launching a smartphone app in the second quarter to enable customers to book pitches, check results and find potential teammates.
Rogers said: “It’ll almost be like a dating agency for players and teams, to help more people get into football.”
Net debts were trimmed to £46.4m, from £50.2m a year earlier, and the board proposed holding the final dividend steady at 1.175p, to be paid on 30 May.