GOALS Soccer Centres has been approached by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International, its biggest shareholder, over a possible takeover for the Scottish 5-a-side football pitch operator.

Sports Direct International (SDI) revealed it has tabled a proposal to the board involving a possible cash offer of 5p per share for the company on September 5.

The approach, which Goals described as “highly caveated”, would value the East Kilbride-based firm at nearly £4 million.

Goals, which employs around 700 staff, had a market value of £20.5m at the close of trading on March 27, when shares were suspended pending an investigation into mis-declared VAT and historic accounting policies.

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The SDI approach comes as Goals faces its listing on the junior Alternative Investment Market (AIM) being cancelled next week.

Goals revealed to the market on August 2 that directors “no longer expect” shares to resume trading by September 30. This is because the completion of its 2018 financial results would not be “achievable” by that deadline, due to the complexity of its investigation.

Goals, which has 45 centres in the UK and four in the US, subsequently put itself up sale on August 29, when it revealed it was inviting offers for the business and assets of the company.

Sports Direct, which holds a 18.93 per cent stake in Goals, questioned the board’s commitment to retaining the company’s stock market listing.

SDI said: “Sports Direct believes that due to Goals’ well-publicised difficulties, the board of Goals is not committed to maintaining Goals’ trading facility. Instead, it seems only interesting in pursuing the AMA (accelerated mergers and acquisitions) process whist at the same time through the loss of the trading facility, depriving Goals’ shareholders of the ability to vote on it.

“Sports Direct is strongly of the view that the Goals shareholders deserve an opportunity to consider the possible offer.”

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Goals reported on August 2 that sales across its 45 sites in the UK were up 11.5% on a gross like-for-like basis for the year to date. US gross like-for-like sales were up 14.5%. It noted that discussions with debt providers remain positive, “albeit that one its covenant thresholds has been exceeded.”

SDI said yesterday that Goals’ trading performance “raises the question of why the AMA process is necessary”, as well as the “urgency” of the process.

SDI added: “There has been no reason given as to why a sale of the business and assets of Goals (which would deprive the shareholders of the right to consider the possible offer) is the best course of action. In addition, there does not seem to be any solvency issue which needs to be urgently addressed.”

Goals’ woes first emerged in March, when it told the City that there had a been a “substantial mis-declaration of VAT going back over several years” which stood at around £12 million, though stated the final value had still to be established.

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It said on August 2 that following its investigations into the recognition of revenue and preparation of financial statements “it has become very recently evident that there has been improper behaviour within the company.” Goals added: “This has involved a number of individuals for a period since at least 2010.”

Goals followed that with a statement on August 12, which confirmed that actions undertaken by former directors Bill Gow and Keith Rogers would form part of the investigations into the mis-statement of historic financial statements. It reported then that "no financial conclusions have yet been reached, although... it is clear inappropriate actions have taken place."

Sports Direct has previously clashed with Goals over the probe. While Goals appointed an independent forensic division of its auditor, BDO, to analyse the accounting errors and policies, Ashley called for Kroll to be brought in to carry out a “cradle to grave” investigation.

Goals described SDI 's approach as a “highly caveated possible cash offer”. It noted: “The proposal remains under consideration between the company and SDI. As such, there can be no certainty that any firm offer will be made nor as to the terms on which any firm offer might be made."