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Sportpaleis: “We still have to reschedule more than a million tickets”

Belgium’s live industry has largely reopened thanks to the Covid Safe Ticket but it could be up to two years until it’s firing on all cylinders again, according to key venues.

This is partly down to the large numbers of ‘old’ tickets that still need to be rebooked – more than one million for the Sportpaleis Antwerp (cap. 23,001) alone – the Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Organisation (vrt) reports.

“We still have to reschedule more than one million tickets,” Jan Van Esbroeck, CEO of Sportpaleis Group, told vrt. “People prefer to redeem those already paid tickets first before thinking about new events.”

Esbroeck nods to Bart Peeters’s rescheduled Deluxe concerts at the Group’s Lotto Arena (cap. 5,218) which were announced last week. “You can hardly buy tickets for those new dates because the majority of them have been in the hands of about 50,000 owners for almost two years,” he says.

“It may take another two years before everything falls into place again”

Mike Naert, general director of concert hall Het Depot in Leuven, still notices a lack of trust and even a certain degree of fear among the general public. He mainly blames the communication of the government: “They keep blowing hot and cold at the same time. Do the vaccinations work or not? Is the realm of freedom here or not? Too much confusion is still being sown.”

Many smaller venues also speak of slower or fewer ticket sales compared to before the pandemic. Gilles Ledure, director of Flagey in Ixelles immediately took into account about 30% fewer sales than before the pandemic when the autumn announcements were made: “It is not yet the rush that everyone expected this autumn. It may take another two years before everything falls into place again.”

Jérôme Giersé from Bozar in Brussels added: “The public also decides more last-minute than before corona. Ticket sales are much more difficult to estimate these days.”

 


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Sportpaleis Antwerp set to reopen later this month

Belgium’s Sportpaleis Antwerp, one of the largest arenas in Europe, will open its doors this month for the first time in a year and a half.

The 23,001-capacity arena will reopen on 18 September, accommodating events with and without Belgium’s Covid Safe Ticket (CST).

Organisers can choose whether they’d like to hold an event using the CST, thereby eliminating the need for social distancing, masks, and capacity limits, or whether they’d like to forego the CST and abide by the aforementioned restrictions.

The CST certifies that they are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours.

The pass applies to events with more than 1,500 attendees and has been in effect from 13 August for outdoor events and 1 September for indoor events.

“It will still be a bit doom and gloom for us in the first six months”

Promoters using the CST must implement a crowd management plan, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation (in the case of indoor shows) which is measured by a CO2 meter.

The arena’s first event, hardstyle dance show Reverze 2021, Wake of the Warrior, will utilise the CST to welcome a sold-out crowd.

“We have been working on the smaller halls for a while, but the heart of our organisation lies in the Sportpaleis,” Jan Van Esbroeck, CEO of the Sportpaleis Group, told VRT NWS. “The reopening is an important step that we can take towards normalisation, although we realise that it will take a few months before it is as before.”

“This year will also be blood red for us. Most international acts have postponed their tours to later spring next year. It will still be a bit doom and gloom for us in the first six months, not everything is over.”

Sportpaleis Group’s Lotto Arena (8,050-cap.), located adjacent to Sportpaleis Antwerp, opened last weekend.

The Group, which is owned by Live Nation Belgium, also includes venues Forest National (cap. 8,000) in Brussels and the Ethias Arena (cap. 18,000) in Hasselt.

 


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Belgium enjoys first festival weekend back

Hundreds of thousands of music fans attended festivals across Belgium in the last few days, marking the country’s first big festival weekend since restrictions were relaxed.

Paradise City, Alcatraz, Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim were among the events to take advantage of the Belgium federal government’s Covid Safe Ticket (CST) to do away with social distancing, masks, and the previous 5,000-capacity limit.

The CTS launched last Friday (13 August) for outdoor events of over 1,500 people to certify that all attendees are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours. The certification will apply to indoor events from 1 September.

Dance festival Paradise City, which took place between 13–15 at Ribaucourt Castle in Perk, Steenokkerzeel, welcomed a total of 25,500 festivalgoers for its three-day extravaganza.

Those attending who weren’t fully vaccinated could take a rapid test at the festival’s test centre for the cost of €15. It was reported that, of the 3,300 tests taken at the festival, a total of six people tested positive – all of whom were sent home.

There were no infections among the campers which is “proof that government protocols work,” says Paradise City co-founder, Gilles De Decker. “This offers hope for the entire event sector.”

“”After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about”

Alcatraz also took place over the weekend, welcoming 12,000 fans per day to Sports Campus Lange Munte in Kortrijk for performances from the likes of Epica, Kreator and Jinjer.

The hard rock and metal festival chose to offer PCR tests onsite rather than rapid tests, which were free of charge for those who hadn’t used up all of their government-funded PCR tests or €56 for those who had.

“After a long period of uncertainty, we were finally back to doing what we are passionate about: creating a gathering that encompasses all facets of the metal genre for our precious inmates to enjoy,” say the organisers.

“Because of the challenging nature of organising this year’s edition, we were even more compelled to make sure Alcatraz Festival 2021 would be absolutely impeccable! We confronted every hurdle head-on and succeeded in organising a safe, but thrilling festival thanks to you metalheads.”

Leuven Air and Jazz Middelheim, which also took place last weekend, did not build their own test villages as it was “too expensive,” according to the organisers. “We should have passed on the costs to our audience,” they added.

The implementation of the CST comes too late for major international festivals including Pukkelpop, Rock Werchter and Tomorrowland, which have already been called off.

 


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Belgium introduces Covid Safe Ticket

The Belgian federal government has launched its Covid Safe Ticket, a domestic health pass which will certify the Covid-19 status of attendees to major entertainment and sports events.

The Covid Safe Ticket (CTS) may be used for events of over 1,500 people to certify that all attendees are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours. The pass, originally planned to be introduced on 1 July, will apply to outdoor events from 13 August and indoor events from 1 September.

While the ‘safe ticket’ eliminates the need for social distancing, promoters must implement a crowd management plan, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation (in the case of indoor shows) which is measured by a CO2 meter, according to the Belgian government.

Covid Safe Tickets are not mandatory – event organisers are free to put on shows without it – but non-safe ticketed events must comply with social distancing regulations and ensure all guests wear a mask, according to Flemish prime minister Jan Jambon.

“The CST works in the same way as the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Both certificates use QR codes that appear on your smartphone”

Explaining how the CST works, Barbara Van Den Haute, of Digital Flanders, says: “The CST works in the same way as the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Both certificates use QR codes that appear on your smartphone via the CovidSafeBE app.

“The CST will colour red if your negative PCR test is older than 48 hours if you are checked entering an event, while at the airport the same code will colour green allowing you to travel.”

Unlike France’s pass sanitaire, the Covid Safe Ticket is specifically for live events and cannot be used for entry to shopping centres, care centres, bars, restaurants or other hospitality establishments, the Brussels Times reports.

The Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps has already confirmed it will use the CST for its 2021 event (27–29 August); festivals and Belgium’s other remaining large summer events are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.

 


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