Clydebank football centre Goals could be taken over by a fund owning some of the biggest professional sports clubs in North America.
Goals Soccer Centres was approached last month by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The Canadian fund owns Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment – an umbrella group of Toronto’s professional football, ice hockey and basketball clubs in the North American ‘major leagues’.
Its flagship brand is the Toronto Maple Leafs – the world’s most valuable ice hockey club. The team has been a member of the Canadian-US National Hockey League (NHL) since the competition was formed in 1917. Having won 13 championships, the ‘Leafs’ are the second most successful club in North America.
If the takeover goes through Goals will be the latest sporting asset in the pension fund’s folio. Thousands of amateur players from across Glasgow play on the artificial pitches every week.
Based on Great Western Road at the boundary between Clydebank and Drumchapel, the complex is among the area’s most-used sporting facilities. It was one of the first five-a-side football centres to provide the latest surface materials – adopting world-class, third generation, rubber-crumb artificial grass.
Goals has come under fire from players for raising prices higher than its competitors, but it remains Britain’s most popular five-a-side football provider. The Goals’ share price jumped after news broke of the Canadians’ approach.
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan dominates the professional sports market in Toronto – the capital of Ontario and fifth largest city in North America. It’s Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment group includes not only the city’s NHL ice hockey team, but also its Major League Soccer (MLS) and National Basketball Association (NBA) sides.
Toronto FC are the second most valuable club in the MLS – out-priced only by David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy – and the Toronto Raptors basketball side draws some of the biggest crowds in the NBA. The group also includes lower level professional ice hockey and football teams.
If the takeover goes through Goals’ customers will hope the new owners invest in its facilities, which were severely damaged last year by the prolonged period of extreme winter weather. Improvements have since been made to the Clydebank centre’s pitches and car park, but players were frustrated by having to endure months of sub-standard facilities.
Under stock exchange rules the takeover talks were due to be completed today (Monday, April 30), however a two-week extension has been granted as details remain outstanding.
In February Goals declared a 21 per cent jump in its annual profits, making £9.2m before taxes. Its Clydebank complex, styled as Goals Glasgow West, is one of 42 centres in the UK.
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