GOALS Soccer Centres shrugged off a failed takeover of the five-a-side football pitch operator and disruption from the London Olympics and Jubilee last year to post resilient profits.
Keith Rogers, chief executive of the East Kilbride-based group, which saw a £73 million recommended takeover bid from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan run into the sand, said: “It was a lot of work during the takeover process.
“But I would like to think these results show we kept our eye on the ball and our focus on the business. In addition, we got through the disruption from the Olympics, the Jubilee and euro football championships by putting on special themed events in connection with them.”
Goals saw its underlying pre-tax profit rise 3 per cent to £9.5m on total sales up 7 per cent at £32.5m in 2012.
Core like-for-like sales rose 3 per cent, while a final dividend of 1.175p per share makes an unchanged full-year payout of 1.85p.
The Aim-quoted firm, which runs 43 UK centres and one in Los Angeles, revealed last month that it had shelved plans to expand its estate this year as it focuses on cutting debt. Debt fell £3m to £50.2m last year.
“We have a national footprint, and this year we will concentrate on filling the capacity we already have,” Rogers said.
“We can deliver growth through increasing capacity and driving up returns. We don’t need to open new centres yet. We will then return to modest growth [of new centres] in 2014.”
As part of its community commitment, Goals is offering free football coaching in the UK to 25,000 children in conjunction with technology giant Samsung and Chelsea Football Club. The group has also unveiled a brand partnership with radio channel talkSport, which Rogers said research had shown that 50 per cent of Goals’ customers listened to.
He added that the company had also identified social media as a key to “further drive pitch utilisation and broaden the target audience”.
Rogers added: “About 85 per cent of our customers have a smartphone. They love technology. About 100,000 have Facebook accounts.
“So social media has strong potential reach for us, in the millions. And you could argue that football was a social network long before Facebook.”
During the year, the firm opened its first modular build centre, at Chester, saying that it is about a third cheaper to construct centres in the factory first rather than on site.
Goals said that, excluding the impact of bad weather, trading in the first eight weeks of 2013 had seen total sales rise 5 per cent with like-for-like sales up 3 per cent.
Broker Cannacord said the annual results were encouraging. “The group has opened 19 centres since 2008, a 76 per cent increase in capacity. Many of these centres are still immature and we see the long-term opportunity to increase the average [underlying earnings per centre] from £377,000 in 2012 back to the peak in 2007 of £500,000.”