Goals rebuffs Mike Ashley over investigation of accounting blunder

Goals Soccer Centres has rebuffed efforts from Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley to hire an investigator of his choice to tackle its recent accounting crisis.

The five-a-side football business saw its shares suspended in March after it discovered a series of accounting errors in its accounts, dating back several years.

Goals said it is in continued talks with HMRC over the blunder, with the miscalculation estimated to be worth at least £12 million.

The company said it engaged “forensic accountants” over the issue, but received a letter from Mr Ashley on Friday demanding that Goals allow him to hire corporate investigator Kroll to probe the accounting issue.

Sports Direct, which is the largest shareholder in Goals with an 18.9% stake, set a deadline of 5pm today to reconsider its refusal to hire Kroll.

The sports retail giant warned directors at Goals that they could face further action if they do not back the appointment, the letter said.

Goals said it responded to the letter yesterday, and remains firm on its stance that it “does not need to appoint further advisers” on this issue.

The response comes a day after Goals confirmed it has hired advisory firm Deloitte to assess future options, which could see a sale of the listed firm.

Recent reports have suggested that the group could be set for a sale within months.

Mike Ashley has been tipped as a potential bidder to buy the company outright, following his recent bidding streak which saw him table a £52 million move for retailer Game earlier this month.

Goals, which has 50 sites in the UK and US, had a market share of £20 million when its shares were suspended.

Last month, Goals warned over its results for both 2018 and 2019 following the VAT misdeclaration, and said it may not be able to complete its 2018 audit by its June 30 deadline.

Despite the warning, it gave assurances that talks with lenders “remain positive” and added that current trading has continued to be strong in the UK and US.

It was also dealt a blow last month with news that boss Andy Anson plans to quit after a year to become the new chief executive of the British Olympic Association.