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Sports Direct hits out at Goals Soccer Centres

Wed 23 October 2019 07:32 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Sports Direct hit out at Goals Soccer Centres on Wednesday, insisting that it hadn't properly engaged with the offer process.

The sportswear retailer, which announced earlier this week that it would not be making an offer for the five-a-side football pitch operator, highlighted press reports in which a spokesman for Goals was cited as saying that it had provided Sports Direct with all the information it had requested as and when it was available.

However, it said: "Contrary to these reports, Goals and its board did not truly engage with an offer process; access and co-operation was limited and fitful.

"In particular, key information including access to forensic accounting reports as well as the ability to engage with the main lender was provided to Sports Direct extremely late in the process and Goals' board was not then willing - or able - to agree to an extension of time for consideration of the potential offer."

Sports Direct reckoned it would be "convenient for all those concerned" if Goals and its corporate history "disappeared as a result of the AMA process".

"Yet again, the independent shareholders of a UK listed company get wiped out through the skulduggery of others; as these constant corporate failures show, the current rules and regulations do not do enough to protect independent shareholders or to prevent fiscal irresponsibility," the company said.

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct - Goals' biggest shareholder - had already said on Monday that it was pulling a potential bid as it had not been able to complete the necessary due diligence to progress the offer.

Goals shares were suspended from trading in March after the company uncovered a £12m accounting error.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley might have his strengths but subtlety is not one of them. Having dropped his takeover of five-a-side football operator Goals Soccer Centres overnight he has launched a furious tirade against its management.

"Sports Direct claims that the Goals board attributed the accounting problems which contributed to the suspension and ultimately the cancellation of its listing on AIM to just one person - something which it dismissed as impossible - and accused them of 'skulduggery' and failing to engage properly with the takeover.

"For Goals' part, it has denied seeking to frustrate the bid and the 'accelerated' sale process looks set to continue.

"Like Debenhams earlier this year, this is another example of Ashley apparently being thwarted in his takeover ambitions despite being the largest shareholder and the company in his crosshairs apparently being in an extremely weak bargaining position.

"Ashley may be proving to be his own worst enemy, perhaps proving that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

"It also brings into question a seemingly scattergun approach to buying assets in the retail and sports space."

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