The owner of Manchester City Football Club has taken full control of the US-based 5-a-side chain it bought into in 2017 following its joint venture partner’s injury-time sale.
Sky News has learnt that City Football Group (CFG) agreed a deal in the last few days to buy Goals Soccer Centres’ 50% stake in their business on the other side of the Atlantic.
A source close to CFG said the Premier League club’s parent had paid approximately £5m for the shareholding, which it acquired from Deloitte, Goals’ administrator.
The deal gives CFG full control of a business which currently trades only from a small number of sites in California and which its new owners are understood to believe has significant scope for expansion.
CFG owns the New York City team that plays in America’s Major Soccer League, as well as clubs in China, Australia and India.
It also holds minority positions in clubs in Spain, Uruguay and Japan.
The owner of the current Premier League champions – who are likely to be dethroned by Liverpool well before the end of the season – recently sold a $500m stake to the US-based private equity firm Silver Lake.
CFG’s purchase of Goals’ US business comes three months after its main UK operations were acquired by Scottish leisure group Soccerworld and Inflexion, a buyout firm.
That deal capped a miserable end to Goals’ 15-year stint as a listed company, which descended into crisis last year when an apparent fraud emerged, leading to its delisting from the London stock market.
The transaction was structured as a pre-pack administration.
Goals’ VAT liabilities are alleged to have been wrongly declared for several years, prompting the company’s former directors to submit a dossier to the Serious Fraud Office.
Mike Ashley, the controlling shareholder in Sports Direct’s parent company, which had been an investor in Goals, lambasted the move as “far too little too late and a deliberate case of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted”.
Goals’ red card from the London stock market came after it began investigating what it described as “improper behaviour on the part of a small number of individuals historically within the company”.
The accountancy firm BDO produced a report alleging that Goals’ former chief executive and chief financial officer colluded to produce fictitious invoices.
Keith Rogers, Goals’ former chief executive and the architect of its stock market flotation, has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Bill Gow, the former finance chief, has not commented on the allegations.
A probe has been launched by the Financial Conduct Authority, while Goals’ auditor, KPMG, is also expected to be the subject of formal inquiries – and potentially litigation.
The Sunday Times reported last month that HMRC was preparing to prosecute some of Goals’ former directors.
Goals’ chief executive, Andy Anson, who had only been in the job for just over a year, resigned several months ago to run the British Olympic Association (BOA).
A CFG spokeswoman declined to comment on the US deal.