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Rival Manchester arena operators in licensing row

Oak View Group alleges that AO Arena operator ASM Global's objections to its application for Co-op Live are "competition based"

By James Hanley on 22 Feb 2024

An artist's impression of the Co-op Live arena

A dispute has broken out between rival Manchester arena operators Oak View Group (OVG) and ASM Global over a licensing application for the city’s new Co-op Live venue.

The 23,500-cap development, which is a joint venture between OVG and City Football Group, will become the UK’s largest arena when it launches at Etihad Campus, the site of Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium in April.

However, the BBC reports that ASM – operator of Manchester’s longstanding AO Arena (cap. 23,000) – has objected to elements of OVG’s licensing bid, citing its desire to “safeguard public safety and the prevention of public nuisance”.

In written submissions to Manchester City Council’s licensing committee, it argues that Co-op Live should close by midnight at the latest, and not be given the ability to open 24/7, 25 times a year, as requested.

Speaking during the hearing at Manchester Town Hall, OVG COO Mark Donnelly alleged that ASM’s objections were “competition based”.

“We are quite disappointed to see [ASM] are trying to put conditions on us when they operate with an unrestricted licence”

“We are quite disappointed to see [ASM] are trying to put conditions on us when they operate with an unrestricted licence,” he said, as per the Manchester Evening News. “As part of ASM’s objections, we feel these are competition based. We feel there’s very little from a licensing point of view. A lot of transport issues were dealt with at planning and that was approved unanimously.”

Previous complaints from the police, trading standards, seven councillors and three residents were withdrawn following revisions by Co-op Live, but objections from 32 residents, two councillors, the council’s public health team, ASM and the Music Venue Trust (MVT) remain.

Donnelly took a swipe at the MVT, alleging the venue charity’s objection was because Co-op Live had “declined” to support its £1 ticket levy initiative to protect grassroots venues.

The MVT’s Niall Forde rejected the claim as “inflammatory” and “entirely false”, saying it objected to the venue’s “ancillary spaces” (which have a combined capacity of 6,000) could take trade off smaller businesses if they were allowed to stay open later.

The hearing continues.

Stand-up comedian Peter Kay was this week revealed as the opening act for Co-op Live. The comic will open the venue with his current record-breaking tour on 23 April. The 30-year-old AO Arena, meanwhile, recently confirmed that its capacity will rise from 21,000 to 23,000 as a result of a £50 million (€59m) reconstruction


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