Five-a-side potential gives businesses a kick

By Gillian Marles
BBC Scotland business reporter


After failing to qualify for this year's World Cup, Scotland may have good reason to question its football credentials.

Image caption, It is predicted there is room for up to 200 five-a-side sites in the UK.

However, two Scottish companies are leading the field in football - the five-a-side kind.

There has been a explosion in interest in the cut-down variety of the game in the past decade.

Powerleague and Goals Soccer Centres have 80 sites in the UK and predict there is room for another 100.

Every week in the UK, about 350,000 people take part in five-a-side.

Every evening, hoards of mainly men, pile on to the artificial turf as soon as work finishes.

The game is faster, a bit more furious than the 11-a-side game.

The five-a-side industry is now dominated by two main players.

Last year Paisley-based Powerleague was bought by a private equity fund when the company's value stood at £80m.

Meanwhile shares in Goals Soccer Centres rose following the announcement it had opened its first centre outside the UK in Los Angeles.

The East Kilbride company is now valued at about £80m.

The LA opening brings the total number of Goals sites to 37 and if it is successful, the company has plans for 13 more in the United States.

In South Africa, the company hopes to open four centres in the next year.

However, the UK still holds a lot of opportunities for the two main five-a-side firms.

Scott Kerr national operations manager for Goals Soccer Centres said: "We put our centres generally within a 10-minute drive time of 150,000 people - so there's quite a lot of scope within the UK to continue to grow and roll-out."

European plans

At 46, Powerleague has more UK centres, and has set its sights on Europe for expansion.

Sean Tracey, chief executive, of Powerleague said: "With football being the number one sport in the likes of Italy France and Spain, there are lots of opportunities for 5-a-side growth there especially because there isn't the developed network of sites there as there is in the UK."

What has made the two companies so successful is the passion in Scotland for football, with twice as many people saying they would rather play the game than watch it.

Research has also shown that five-a-side participation has exceeded 11-a-side for most of the past decade.

Many of the players are in their 30s and 40s.

Alan Jameson, 46, plays once a week at Goals' south Glasgow centre.

He said: "It's a good way of keeping fit and catching up with my mates. We have a couple of pints afterwards, it's a good laugh and cheaper than they gym."

World Cup boost

Both Powerleague and Goals expect this year's World Cup will boost business.

Goals Soccer Centres said it had been making plans for about two years.

Scott Kerr said: "We call it the Wimbledon effect where people pick up a tennis racquets for about two weeks around Wimbledon -- the same happens around the World Cup with football."

Both companies have reported an upturn in corporate bookings for parties.

Sean Tracey from Powerleague views the World Cup as a bit of a double-edged sword.

He said: "We've seen a lot more corporate events, a lot more sponsorship from various clients and that's given an increased boost but obviously when the big games are on - people will be in the bar watching and not on the pitch."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.