Martin Flanagan: Goals may have stuck one in the top corner

Goals Soccer Centres' new joint venture with Sheikh Mansour, owner of Manchester City FC, to crack the American market is ambitious.

Goals now has a partner with 'deep pockets and serious marketing cachet', says Martin Flanagan. Picture: Contributed

It certainly takes the edge off the City’s disappointment that merger talks between the East Kilbride-based operator of smaller-sided football venues with Paisley-based rival Powerleague have been put on hold.

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It is fair to say Goals has so far not rooted up any trees with its fledgling business across the Atlantic. It built its first site in Los Angeles in 2010 and is only now building its third (admittedly four more are said to be in the pipeline).

But it has fallen well short of a breakneck pace of growth. The tie-up with Sheikh Mansour’s City Football Group, which owns a number of football clubs, also including New York City and Melbourne City, could galvanise Goals’ American activity, however.

The Scottish group now has a partner with deep pockets, and, as importantly, serious marketing cachet. What do Manchester City get out of it?

Increasingly, football is about commercial income from global franchises (arch-rival Manchester United are particularly popular with Asian fans), and the strategic rationale could be that America might eventually help form a geographical counterpoise to that Far East powerbase.

The Man City brand will be used to drive marketing activity alongside $16 million (£12.3m) of expansion capital to fund an “ambitious” programme of North American new openings.

City analysts believe it is now feasible to see Goals/City Football Group having a portfolio of at least 16 sites within the next seven years or so, a marked improvement. It is a potential step change, and could see the company finally moving from just finding its feet in the US and Canada to hitting its stride. Admittedly, it comes with the caveat that people have been talking about the takeoff of soccer to rival the indigenously strong American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey since the 1960s.

But, equally fairly, the US national soccer team in particular have surprised on the upside in recent World Cups and generated a lot of interest in stateside high schools.

In an upbeat scenario, the British company will exploit a growing momentum with a partner possessing significant cash and nous.