Bosses at Goals Soccer Centres, the five-a-side football pitch operator, have admitted that the £12 million black hole in their accounts could be far higher.
The announcement came as the firm was de-listed from the stock exchange after the accounting issues – relating to unpaid VAT – could not be resolved before Monday’s deadline.
Full-year accounts had to be filled to avoid breaching listing rules, but, due to the need to restate accounts for several years, bosses admitted the task was too much.
The company said: “The actual liability may be materially higher than that previously announced dependent on the approach and working assumptions that could be adopted by HMRC in assessing the misdeclaration.”
It added that failure to file the accounts was because of “the significant number and quantity of material correcting accounting entries” for the past three years.
“This workstream requires significant resource and time due to the nature, quantum and time period covered by the accounting issues identified,” Goals said.
The company added that there had been no further discussions with HMRC to find a resolution.
Shares in Goals had initially been suspended in March after the accounting scandal, which involved VAT not being paid on bookings, was first uncovered.
The biggest shareholder – 19% – had been Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, with furious executives publicly attacking the Goals board and accusing them of a cover-up, which is denied.
Earlier this month, Sports Direct also made a £4 million bid for the remaining shares, although bosses at Goals pointed out that the 5p-a-share bid was “preliminary and highly caveated”.
The bid came after Goals confirmed that its former chief executive, Keith Rogers, and finance chief, Bill Gow, are under investigation over historic financial irregularities.
Mr Rogers and Mr Gow’s behaviour while at Goals is part of an investigation and reports suggest the Financial Conduct Authority is also looking into the issue.
According to reports, forensic accountants at BDO allege that Mr Gow emailed Mr Rogers asking him to “work your usual magic” to create fake invoices.
Allegations were also made that Mr Gow deleted old emails to “purge” records and the pair were manipulating numbers to avoid VAT payments and breaching banking rules with the company’s lender, Bank of Scotland.
Despite shares being de-listed, the current board said it hopes trading in shares could continue by other means.
The company said: “In due course, and if appropriate, the directors will seek to establish an off-market trading facility which match trades in the ordinary shares between willing buyers and willing sellers, acting as a central point for negotiation between UK stockbrokers.”