The match to take over Goals Soccer Centre, which had already dragged into extra time, yesterday ended in a shock defeat for the £73m bidder.
To the surprise of analysts, shareholders in the company – which operates 43, five-a-side football centres in the UK as well as one in the US – failed to back an offer from Canadian pension fund the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.
Goals' board had agreed to the approach from Ontario in July, but with it requiring 75 per cent of independent shareholders voting at yesterday's meeting to back the move, only 71.4 per cent did.
The 80 shareholders – mainly institutions – who did vote between them hold 30.5m shares, just over 60 per cent of the total number of shares in issue. With the £73.1m offer worth 144p-a-share, shares in Aim-listed Goals slumped 20 per cent, or 29p, to 115.5p.
The decision prompted surprise among analysts, with those at the broker Panmure Gordon saying they "cannot remember a similar instance where shareholders have voted down a firm bid with no alternative offer and the obvious immediate share price downside".
The bid process has been running since early April with four extensions granted by the Takeover Panel.
Goals' rival, Powerleague owner Patron, did look at making a bid for the company, but dropped out earlier this month.
"Obviously we are disappointed that we have not struck a deal", said Goals' managing director Keith Rog-ers, who holds an 8 per cent stake in the company.
"However, to have a significant percentage of shareholders believing that our company is worth considerably more is testament to the great business we have built.
"We are totally focused on our stated strategy to continue to build on the considerable success that has already been achieved," he added.