ANALYSTS have given the thumbs up to the ongoing pitch and clubhouse refurbishment programme being undertaken at Goals Soccer Centres, as the company declared that its newer arenas had a positive impact on sales last year.

However, the older sites run by the 5-a-side football pitch operator weighed on Goals’ last year, with underlying profits before tax dropping by 19 per cent to £6.2 million at the East Kilbride-based company – in line with consensus.

The closure of clubhouses at Glasgow South, Leeds, Wembley, Ruislip and Beckenham because of refurbishment work meant like for like sales dipped by 0.4% in 2017.

The heavy snow falls which brought much of the UK to a near standstill in late February are also expected to weigh on results for the current year.

But Goals, which will usher in new chief executive Andy Anson as Mark Jones’ successor on April 23, said investment to upgrade its UK arenas is paying off. The firm said 248 of its 460 pitches have now been fully modernised, delivering good returns at clubs where five or more arenas have been upgraded. And it said declines have been reduced at clubs with between one and four upgraded areas, with further investment planned.

Total sales at Goals, whose investors include Mike Ashley with an 18.9% stake, rose marginally to £33.8m last year, up from £33.5m in 2016.

The company underlined its progress in the US, where it has stepped up its roll-out programme after receiving a $16m investment by City Football Group (CFG), owner of Manchester City.

A third Goals outlet in California opened in January under the new joint venture, with work on a fourth expected to begin in the second quarter of this year. It is hoped that seven will be up and running in the US by the end of 2019 as the company looks to add two sites in the US each year. Goals currently has 49 sites in total.

“Today’s results from Goals Soccer show the progress being made to fix the UK business and to capitalise on the North American opportunity via the JV with City Football Group,” said analyst Canaccord Genuity. “The growing evidence is clear: investment works, and is essential to ensure the long-term health of the UK.”

Chairman Michael Bolingbroke said Goals made “significant progress”, but warned it has work to do to “unlock the potential inherent value within the UK estate”.