Five-a-side football operator Goals Soccer Centres is seeking to cash in on America’s new-found love of the beautiful game by quadrupling its presence in Los Angeles over the next two years.
The East Kilbride-based firm, which put its growth plans on ice in 2012 to focus on tackling its debt pile, is also planning to add more sites on this side of the Atlantic after unveiling a 9 per cent rise in first-half profits.
Goals, led by managing director Keith Rogers, has 44 centres across the UK – having recently acquired its first location in Newcastle – plus a single branch in Los Angeles that opened in 2010.
“In those four years we’ve got our heads down and been very quietly and carefully doing our homework,” Rogers told The Scotsman today.
“We’ve looked at demographics to understand the market and now we’re building up a pipeline on the west coast based on the knowledge we’ve gained.”
Rogers said this summer’s World Cup in Brazil – where Jurgen Klinsmann steered the US team through to the knockout stage – had helped to boost the profile of a sport that has traditionally lagged behind baseball and American football in the popularity stakes.
He added: “It was one of the best tournaments ever and the engagement in the US was far better than four years ago. I was in LA at the time and couldn’t believe how immersed the Americans were in the whole experience.
“LA has a population of more than 18 million and is a very strong soccer area – it’s been the most popular team sport in schools for the last ten years and the centre there is one of our top performers.”
Aim-quoted Goals, chaired by former Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman, is now planning to add another LA site in 2015, with a further two in the pipeline for the following year. Two more centres are due to open in England next year, joining a branch in Manchester that is on track to launch “on time and on budget” during the fourth quarter.
Rogers said Goals has no plans to boost its presence in Scotland – where it has one site in Aberdeen and two in Glasgow – and remained tight-lipped on potential sites south of the Border, but added: “We’re a high footfall business, so that dictates the kind of locations we go into.”
Interim results published today showed the firm enjoyed a 3 per cent rise in sales to £17.1 million in the six months to the end of June, with the growing popularity of children’s parties helping to offset declining midweek bar sales as health-conscious customers cut back on their alcohol intake.
Underlying pre-tax profits rose 9 per cent to £4.4m, but costs associated with a recent restructuring of the company’s loan facilities with Bank of Scotland saw bottom-line earnings tumble to £605,000, down from £4.1m a year ago.
However, finance director Bill Gow said the refinancing would save Goals more than £1m a year in interest costs, and analysts at house broker Canaccord Genuity predicted the move would be “greeted positively by the market as this is the final piece of the platform required to resume the new site roll-out”.
The broker has pencilled in a full-year adjusted pre-tax profit of £10.6m, up from £9.6m last time.
The interim dividend, to be paid on 28 November, was held at 0.675p a share.