Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct accuses football pitch operator of 'skulduggery'

Criticism: Mike Ashley
Criticism: Mike Ashley

By Henry Saker-Clark

Sports Direct has condemned Goals Soccer Centres, accusing its management of wiping out shareholders through "skulduggery".

Mike Ashley's retail firm hit out at the five-a-side-football pitch operator, two days after confirming he had no intention to buy the business.

The retail tycoon said Goals and its board "did not truly engage" with the offer process, describing their co-operation as "limited and fitful".

Sports Direct, which is Goals' largest shareholder, had been mulling a £4m swoop for Goals.

The retail giant denied reports that Goals said it provided Sports Direct with all the information needed.

In the statement, Sports Direct said: "From the beginning, the attitude of the Goals board made no sense, including proclamations to senior management of Sports Direct that the issues impacting on, and leading to the catastrophic failure of, the business had only been perpetuated by one person.

"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."

Sports Direct described the Goals board's behaviour as "incredible incompetence and ignorance, wilful or otherwise, at the very least and potentially far worse".

The sports venue business hit trouble in March when its shares were suspended after it revealed £12m of accounting errors.

The company admitted "improper behaviour" and was delisted from the AIM stock market in September.

Sports Direct has had its own troubles in recent months, such as ongoing difficulty in securing an auditor and a last-minute £600m tax bill from Belgian authorities which delayed its most recent set of results.

Mr Ashley considered adding Goals to his list of recent acquisitions which includes Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and Sofa.com.

Belfast Telegraph

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