Multi-million-pound deals put football on offensive

The business of five-a-side football in the UK is taking a great leap forward with three separate deals which will extend the reach and profile of the sport.

Powerleague, the UK's largest operator of five-a-side centres with 24 sites, has just completed a management buyout from 3i, the venture capital group.

The deal, backed by HBOS, is for an undisclosed sum but is believed to value Power-league at more than £20m.

The group will reveal tomorrow that it has signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Xbox, the computer games system owned by Microsoft. Sean Tracey, managing director of Powerleague, said it was the first time a major brand had sponsored five-a-side football.

Separately, Vida, the number two player in the market with 12 sites, has just completed a £30m management buyout from its existing owner, David Murray, the chairman of Glasgow Rangers Football Club.

Under the deal, led by Vida managing director Tom Younger and backed by Alchemy Partners and the Royal Bank of Scotland, Mr Murray is receiving £16m for his controlling stake and another £14m will be invested in the business for expansion.

Mr Younger said that Vida is currently building a new site in Southampton and has identified six other sites in the UK and one in Ireland.

A third operator, Goals, is backed by Dunedin, a Scottish venture capital group, and has a dozen sites.

All the five-a-side companies provide all-weather, floodlit pitches as well as changing rooms and a bar on the site. The pitches cost around £40 an hour to hire.

The companies organise leagues, can provide referees and have deals with clients as diverse as Goldman Sachs and J Sainsbury to run staff events.

"We've seen a phenomenal growth in the corporate market, which has doubled in the last few years," said Powerleague's chairman, Claude Littner, the former chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur.

Vida has also struck a deal with Nestlé to provide children's facilities, with a crèche and party rooms at its venues.

Both Powerleague and Vida said it was good news that the other company was expanding as this would improve the profile of the whole sector. Both hope to be in a position to float on the stock market in three or four years' time.

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