Five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres has put itself up for sale, weeks after it disclosed accounting issues going back almost a decade.
Shares in the company – whose biggest shareholder is Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct – have been suspended since March as a probe into the issues took place and earlier this month revealed a far deeper scandal than previously thought.
Goals said on Thursday that it had “commenced a process to invite offers for the business and assets of the company”.
Sky News revealed in June that the company, which is Britain’s second-largest five-a-side football venue operator, was preparing to launch a sale process.
Goals said in March that it had “substantially misdeclared” VAT going back over a period of several years, to a value then estimate at £12m, and that it was examining past accounting practices.
It has been in discussions with HM Revenue and Customs about resolving the shortfall.
Earlier this month, it said it had become clear that there had been “improper behaviour within the company” involving “a number of individuals for a period since at least 2010”.
That prompted it to delay the publication of full-year financial results, though Goals did reveal that like-for-like sales for the year-to-date at its 45 UK sites were up by 11.5%.
Goals, which employs about 700 people, had a market value of £20m when its shares were suspended though it was unclear what this might translate to in any sales process.
Mr Ashley, whose Sports Direct business owns just under 19% of the company, has lambasted Goals’ directors over their handling of the accounting scandal.
Sports Direct has demanded a “root and branch investigation”, adding in a letter to the company in July that it was “difficult to understand how this could be allowed to happen”.
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