The drama at Goals Soccer Centres shows no signs of ending as the Financial Conduct Authority opens a fraud probe into the troubled Scottish-based operator of outdoor football pitches.
Following on from its shock stock market delisting earlier this month, the FCA has opened a probe into alleged fraud at Goals, amid press speculation that former CEO, Keith Rogers, and CFO, Bill Gow, were at the centre of it.
In a statement on their website, Goals confirmed that the two men were being investigated. “[We] can confirm that actions undertaken by Mr Gow and Mr Rogers while employees and directors of the Company form part of the current investigations,” the statement read.
“The company can confirm no finalised conclusions have yet been reached, although as stated in the 02 August 2019 announcement by the company, it is clear inappropriate actions have taken place.”
Keith Rogers co-founded Goals and led the business to its 2004 flotation on the stock market before stepping down as CEO in 2017. Bill Gow was CFO until early February before being replaced by an interim CFO.
BDO, who replaced KPMG as Goals’ auditor in June 2018, has conducted its own forensic analysis of the company’s accounts. According to BDO’s report, seen by The Sunday Times, Gow and Rogers allegedly engaged in unscrupulous accounting.
In one particularly incendiary allegation, the BDO report stated that “Gow sent email requests to former chief executive Keith Rogers asking him to ‘work your usual magic’ and create false invoices”.
BDO’s auditors also uncovered “substantial destruction” of electronic information at the company in the course of their investigation.
In early August the company delisted from the stock market after uncovering “improper behaviour” stretching back years. The irregularities, the company said, meant it would be unable to file its accounts due to “material uncertainty” over the company’s historical financial statements.
According to Goals, the “improper behaviour” related to the recognition of revenue and the preparation of financial statements. It said this had involved a number of individuals and dated back to at least 2010.
For KPMG, there’s reportedly trouble on the horizon. If the allegations of substantial fraud and accounting irregularities are proven to be true, they happened under the Big Four firm’s watch as auditor and KPMG could face legal action from the company and its shareholders.
Banking breach and VAT errors
Back in March of this year, Goals Soccer Centres issued its second profit warning of the year. The trading update was light on detail, but hinted at a culture of dysfunctional accounting and that the board expected “the 2018 full-year results will be materially below expectations”.
These irregularities led to a breach of Goals’ banking covenants, with the firm’s debt-to-EBITDA ratio being the likely culprit.
Later in the same month, the five-a-side football company announced “substantial” VAT errors totalling “£12m” so far. Goals said the mistakes went back "several years" and it needed more time to establish the full cost.
The company said it would adopt new VAT accounting policies which "may have an impact on future profitability".