Rise in artificial pitches hits goals soccer centres

PUBLISHED: 09:27 14 March 2016 | UPDATED: 09:27 14 March 2016

Undated handout photo issued by Goals Soccer Centres plc of Keith Rogers the Managing Director. Photo: Goals Soccer Centres/PA Wire

Undated handout photo issued by Goals Soccer Centres plc of Keith Rogers the Managing Director. Photo: Goals Soccer Centres/PA Wire

Five-a-side football firm Goals Soccer Centres has slumped into the red after seeing its market share hit by a rise in council-run artificial pitches.

The East Kilbride-based firm - which runs about 45 centres across the UK - plunged to a pre-tax loss of £6.2m in 2015, down from a pre-tax profit of £6.8m the year before. Shares dropped 7pc.

It said like-for-like sales in the UK were down 6.7pc as the business was hit “significantly” by the growing number of schools and local authorities building full-size artificial football pitches and offering cheaper prices.

The biggest blow came in the second half of the year when like-for-like sales fell 11.5pc.

But the firm said its plans to overhaul the business are starting to bear fruit after mounting positive like-for-like sales in the first nine weeks of 2016.

It comes as the company embarks on a top-level shake-up, with managing director Keith Rogers taking up the role of president of Goals US, Nick Basing joining as executive chairman, and chairman Keith Edelman stepping down from the board.

Mr Rogers said: “We are not blind to the challenges we face in a fast-evolving market.

“The development of full-size artificial pitches on school and local authority sites has fuelled increasing competition to our league offering and players now have more choice on where to play their game. This has impacted our business significantly recently.”

The company said it had opened new sites in Manchester and Doncaster last year but they had underperformed. It has now halted plans to open any new sites across the UK in the immediate future.

However, the business saw a brighter performance from the US market, with like-for-like sales edging up 8.4pc thanks to strong growth from its centre in Los Angeles.

The company, which employs about 800 staff, said it had moved to attract wayward amateur football players by ramping up its health and fitness marketing campaign Get Fit - Mind, Body and Goals, which has led to an increase in inquiries.

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