Powerleague Group, then operator of five a side football centres, is searching for a financial partner to help expand into Europe, its executive chairman said.

Claude Littner a former chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur said expanding outside the UK was one of his pet subjects to discuss with management, but that he had yet to find a suitable partner to work with.

Powerleague reported a 15 percent rise in operating profit before exceptional items to 4.8 million pounds on Tuesday for the year ended July 1.

Its shares were up 3.4 percent at 76 pence by 10:54 a.m.

I want to move into Europe, but I don't want to part with the company's money, Littner said in a telephone interview. We need a partner ... we would take the management contract.

He said he had met with companies from Holland, Germany, France and Portugal but had yet to find a suitable match.

We have been looking at retailers. Sometimes to get planning permission in an out of town site, you (the retailer) also have to provide a leisure use as well. We can provide that, he said.

The Scottish firm has sponsorship deals with both Nike and Microsoft, and Littner said the two U.S. heavyweights were equally keen to expand the partnership outside the UK market.

Powerleague is the biggest five a side football operator in the UK with 34 sites and plans to open two more before July 2007 the end of its current financial year.

Turnover rose 17 percent to 20.5 million pounds.

We are thrilled with the results, Littner said. The top line growth has filtered down to the bottom line. We have a lot of repeat business and visibility going forward something very important in the current retail market.

He said 90,000 men and women were using the five a side centres every week, up from about 80,000 last year, and that recent Football Association figures had shown that the smaller form of the game was now more popular than traditional 11 a side.

The results allowed Powerleague to pay a maiden dividend of 0.75 pence a share, but Littner said he could not make any commitments to a progressive policy going forward.

I'd be absolutely delighted to, but let's see how this year pans out first. I'm a pretty cautious guy, he said.