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Troubled five-a-side football pitch operator Goals Soccer Centres is being bought by rival Soccerworld.

Goals, which is part-owned by Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley, put itself up for sale in August following the emergence of an accounting scandal.

In a statement, Goals said it was being acquired by Northwind 5s Ltd.

The new company is backed by private equity firm Inflexion and Soccerworld, which runs five centres in Scotland and England.

The price paid for Goals’ assets is understood to be about £27m.

The East Kilbride-based firm operates five-a-side pitches at 45 different locations in the UK and US.

‘Very serious issues’

In its statement, Goals said it was being placed in administration and its assets immediately taken over, protecting the jobs of 750 staff.

It also detailed what it called “very serious issues” with its accounts going back at least 10 years.

Goals has already admitted that under-reporting of its tax liability meant that it owed HM Revenue and Customs more than £13m.

It now says the tax bill could be “very significantly more”, and that it may have overstated its profits since 2009 by as much as £40m.

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It was reported earlier this week that a dossier of information has been passed to the Serious Fraud Office.

Goals’ statement read: “The board and management of Goals have worked tirelessly over the past eight months with their advisers and their lenders to identify and resolve the company’s issues relating to the misdeclaration of VAT and other serious accounting issues, dating back several years.

“Every avenue has been fully explored to deliver the best possible outcome for all stakeholders in the business.

“However, ultimately the only available solution, given the indebtedness of the company, the unresolved VAT situation and inappropriate accounting, was to accept that the company needed to delist and for the company to undertake an accelerated M&A (mergers and acquisitions) process to seek a buyer for the business and its assets.”

Soccerworld is run by Ian and Barry McDermott, who founded Goals Soccer Centres in 1987.

In a joint statement, the brothers said they were “delighted” to be returning to the company.

They added: “The business has grown substantially over the years with the market continuing to evolve and develop.

“We look forward to partnering with Inflexion as we grow the company further and continue to provide first class football facilities to a loyal customer base.”



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