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City Football Group invests in UK’s Co-op Live arena

City Football Group (CFG), a global operator of football and sports-related business, has become Oak View Group’s (OVG) equal joint venture partner and investor in Co-op Live.

The Manchester venue has also attracted investment from pop star Harry Styles who acquired a minority stake in October 2020.

The arena, which at 23,500 capacity will be the UK’s largest, was given planning approval in September and is set to open on the Etihad Campus in 2023.

CFG, the lead developer of the Etihad Campus, will coordinate with OVG on jobs, sustainability and “advancing the campus as a global sport, leisure and entertainment destination”.

Tim Leiweke, co-founder and CEO at OVG, commented: “We are thrilled that CFG has chosen to invest in Co-op Live, and we can’t think of a better partner for this project. We are creating one of the world’s best arenas in Manchester. This venue will push the boundaries of live entertainment and be a significant source of opportunity for the city. We also know that this is precisely the right time to make such a substantial financial investment in Manchester, helping it build back from the terrible impact of Covid-19.

“With CFG as a JV partner, [we can create] a magical intersection of sports and entertainment that will be the envy of the world”

“The Etihad Campus was always a clear choice due to its proximity to the city centre and the opportunity to be part of a growing visitor destination with excellent existing transport links. With CFG as a JV partner, we can push the boundaries on how Co-op Live delivers for artists, every single fan, the UK’s music industry and the city by creating a magical intersection of sports, community and entertainment that will be the envy of the world.”

Marty Edelman, board director at CFG, commented: “Co-op Live unlocks the potential for the Etihad Campus to grow as an entertainment destination that creates more reasons for the nation and world to visit Manchester.

“The chairman and the board’s priority has always been to ensure Co-op Live seamlessly integrates with the campus and compliments Manchester’s city centre offer. As a joint venture partner and investor, we will ensure the Co-op Live becomes part of the fabric of East Manchester and delivers the fullest community and economic impact as Manchester, and the wider region builds back from Covid.”


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Plans unveiled for £350m, 23,500-cap. Manchester arena

Following months of feasibility studies begun in August 2019, Oak View Group (OVG) has confirmed it plans to bring forward a planning application for a new arena in Manchester, in northern England.

With a capacity of up to 23,500, the venue – to be located on the Etihad Campus, the site of Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium in Eastlands, east Manchester – would be, by some way, the largest indoor arena in the UK, and go head to head with the city-centre Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), operated by rival ASM Global.

It would also be the most expensive – the £350 million in private investment funding the project is the most ever spent on an arena in the UK or Europe, says OVG. The new arena would support over 1,000 jobs once it is up and running, and 3,500 during the construction phase.

“We came to Manchester knowing that we needed to develop our proposals in a way that would support the needs and priorities of the entire city and deliver a venue that would enable Manchester to thrive in an evolving entertainment market,” says Tim Leiweke, co-founder and chief executive of Oak View Group. “Through extensive community and city centre consultations, we have understood the local priorities and vision that is transforming Eastlands, along with the ambitions that underpin Manchester’s development as a thriving place to live and visit.

“Our new venue … would place Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades to come”

“Our new venue would attract a wider range of the world’s most exciting events and create thousands of skilled jobs, genuine community opportunities, and significant economic benefits. It would place Manchester on the global entertainment map for decades to come.”

Oak View Group, a venue development, advisory and investment company co-founded by former AEG CEO Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, launched its London-based overseas division, OVG International, at ILMC 31 last March. The first OVG International project, Santa Giulia Arena in Milan, was announced in June.

OVG’s European Arenas Association-rivalling International Venue Alliance, meanwhile, counts Dusseldorf’s D.Live, Birmingham’s NEC Group and Ascot Racecourse and Silverstone Circuit among its first members.

The venue will have an interior bowl that "brings artists and fans closer together than ever before"

According to OVG, its proposals focus on “five key elements” that bring its “vision of a world-class, next-generation venue to Manchester”:

Meanwhile, an energy-efficient design featuring ‘low-carbon technologies’ and waste reduction measures would make it one of the most sustainable venues in the UK, in line with Manchester’s Zero Carbon 2038 strategy.

“We appreciate the significance of our proposals for the entire city,” continues Leiweke. “We will present our full analysis of the Manchester opportunity along with our plans and are committed to engaging in dialogue and scrutiny throughout the planning process to ensure a second arena is a win-win for the city.”

OVG plans to submit a planning application in the coming weeks. Subject to successful planning approval, the company envisages the venue would take three years to build, with the first events planned to be held in 2023.


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Silver Lake invests in OVG Manchester arena partner

Silver Lake, a private equity firm with stakes in a number of major live entertainment companies, has acquired a US$500 million stake in Manchester City Football Club owner City Football Group (CFG), the partner on Oak View Group’s (OVG) new arena project.

The buy-in, which sees the investor take control of more than 10% of CFG, complements the $100m investment Silver Lake made in venue development group OVG last year.

OVG is currently working in partnership with CFG on building a major new concert venue in the Eastlands area of Manchester, home to the football club’s Etihad Stadium. The arena project entered into its second round of consultation meetings yesterday (Thursday 28 November), the day after Silver Lake announced its CFG investment.

“We and Silver Lake share the strong belief in the opportunities being presented by the convergence of entertainment, sports and technology”

“We and Silver Lake share the strong belief in the opportunities being presented by the convergence of entertainment, sports and technology,” comments CFG chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

Silver Lake has invested heavily in the entertainment industry in recent years and currently owns 100% of Asia-Pacific live entertainment giant TEG, 51% of WME/UFC parent company Endeavor and 8.4% of Madison Square Garden Company.

The investor’s most recent deal places CFG at a valuation of $4.8 billion – a record for a sports group. According to the Financial Times, the $500m cash injection will help fund CFG’s acquisition of more football clubs globally, as well as the planned construction of a new stadium in New York.


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Blink Identity wins Manchester City FC pilot

Blink Identity is to deploy its facial-recognition technology in a pilot programme for Manchester City FC, after winning the recent City Startup Challenge in Manchester, UK.

The five-day competition, organised by City Football Group, the Abu Dhabi-based holding company that owns the English Premier League champions, saw Texas-based Blink impress club bosses with its biometric security solution, which can identify people’s faces at full walking speed.

Over the coming weeks, Blink Identity will work with City Football Group on their VIP and Academy access solutions, in order to improve “both the overall experience and guest security”, says the company.

“We’re thrilled to have been chosen to work with the City Football Group, integrating our facial-recognition-at-walking-speed solution into their elite programming,” comments Mary Haskett, CEO and co-founder of Blink Identity.

“Our state-of-the-art biometric technology … will improve dwell times, overall and specific security issues”

“Our state-of-the-art biometric technology has high throughput rates and accuracy, which, combined with our ‘privacy first’ policy, will improve dwell times, overall and specific security issues, and also back and front of the house operations for this prestigious organisation.”

Blink Identity last year summer received US$1.5 million in seed funding from Sinai Ventures and Live Nation, with the latter’s CEO, Michael Rapino, describing how Blink’s tech could be used to “associate your digital ticket with your image”.

The technology made its public debut at the KNOW 2019 conference in Las Vegas in March, with guests entering the event by simply walking past Blink’s sensor.


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