Goals Soccer Centres in attacking mode

Goals Soccer Centres has plans to begin expanding again. Picture: Contributed
Goals Soccer Centres has plans to begin expanding again. Picture: Contributed
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Five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres today said it was poised to start rolling out new venues after telling investors that its trading in the past year has been in line with market expectations.

Five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres will kick off a new wave of expansion this year after paying down debt and bolstering its head office set-up.

The East Kilbride-based firm, which has 43 sites across the UK and one in Los Angeles, decided in 2012 to postpone the roll-out of pitches, a move that helped to reduce its debts from £54 million in June 2012 to £46m by the end of last year.

Today the firm said its performance last year had been in line with City expectations, with overall sales increasing by 3 per cent to £33.5m.

Chief executive Keith Rogers said the business would be ready to resume its growth strategy, opening one base in the second half of 2014 and picking up the pace the following year.

He said: “We had grown very rapidly and it had gone very well but we hadn’t really changed the way head office worked. We have now made the business much smarter and have also used the time to pay down some debt.”

At the end of its last expansion phase Goals developed a “modular” system for building its centres, and Rogers said that will make developments faster and 35 per cent cheaper.

The company has also been working on its branding through the use of social media, while a smartphone app to help football teams and clubs organise their games is due to be launched in the coming months.

Rogers said the digital systems are a major development for the firm, as they will advertise the brand while at the same time reducing lost bookings due to arrangements falling through.

“We call the team organisers our ‘golden customers’ and we want to give them as much help and assistance as we can,” he said.

Goals is also likely to benefit from any pick up in consumer confidence this year as the UK economy returns to health. Although like-for-like sales grew across all areas in terms of football bookings last year, that was slightly offset by a fall in takings at Goals’ bars as customers cut back on after-game drinks.

Rogers said that football sales remain the company’s key driver, providing 75 per cent of sales and 80 per cent of profits.

Growth in sales at the group’s US base was particularly strong, and the company is expected to start expanding across the US in the coming years. A more detailed update on the expansion plans has been promised at the time of the full-year results announcement in March.

Rogers added: “The US has been a big success for us, we can’t get away from that. We’ve been learning about the market in great detail and we will not just leave it at that.”

Analyst Wayne Brown, at Canaccord Genuity, estimates that the LA centre is already the most profitable in the group, generating more than £500,000 in profits.

In a note rating shares in Goals as a “strong buy”, Brown said: “The group is starting to see meaningful benefits from the organisational and operational changes made over the last year and whilst many of these initiatives only started in the second half, they have been clear drivers behind an improving sales performance.”