Open Goals for 5-a-side operator

Football fans are used to disappointment. No wonder the downturn hasn't put us off the beautiful game...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Goals Soccer, which operates 5-a-side football centres up and down the country, said in a trading update today that it’s on course for ‘another excellent result in the coming year’, after a sterling first half performance. Goals says there’s been no sign of any decrease in demand for its pitches, and thanks to its competitive pricing, it’s not expecting to see one any time soon. Sir Stuart Rose would kill for an outlook like that…

Goals opened three new centres in the first half of the year, as Britons continued to clamour for their weekly post-work kick-around. Three more are scheduled to open in the second half of the year, and another six are slated for 2009. Apparently its site pipeline has never looked better, and it’s got a finance facility lined up with its banks to ensure it can open six new centres every year for the foreseeable future. ‘Our rollout programme continues to plan,’ the company beamed proudly today.

It’s been a stellar rise for Goals in the last couple of years. Last year it banked profits of £7m, a 42% increase on the previous year, after hosting more than 300,000 games on its ‘next-generation’ synthetic grass 5-a-side pitches – which are a far cry from the elbow-and-knee-destroying Astroturf efforts that most devotees had been used to. The popularity of football in this country continues to spiral (as the recent figures from Deloitte’s Football Finance unit show), and although 11-a-side participation is on the wane, 5-a-side is now the fastest-growing sport in the UK. As the leading player, Goals is riding the crest of a wave – and it’s planning to build on its British success by branching out into South Africa and North America too.

The company reckons one reason for its enduring popularity is that it’s so cheap. At an average of just £5.50 a head, a weekly game of football is hardly going to break anyone’s bank – even in a downturn. In fact, it’s even hoping that the recent economic woes will actually encourage people to get out on the pitch and clatter their mates. ‘If times are getting tough, playing football once a week can present the one time when people can get together with their friends and forget about their problems,’ director Bill Gow told the Telegraph this morning.

But there’s also another factor: anyone who’s followed the fortunes of our national teams will be used to reckless optimism followed by crushing disappointment. So football fans are likely to prove more resilient than most in a downturn...

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