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Leading execs to discuss arenas in Recovery Sessions

The line-up has been finalised for the next must-see Recovery Sessions event, which takes place tomorrow (21 October) at 16.00 BST and is free to watch.

Joining chair Olivier Toth (chair of EAA) are Coralie Berael (Forest National Arena), Tony Goldring (William Morris Endeavour), Steve Homer, (AEG Presents) and Paul Twomey (Bio Security Systems), who will be exploring the recovery of the arena market.

Recovery Sessions: Arenas Working Together will look at how these principal touring grounds are working collectively to reignite the live music sector – from new developments in mitigation measures and strategies, to new and more collaborative actions across the venue space.

Beyond Covid-19, with sustainability now a must-tackle issue, and the ongoing race to provide the perfect customer experience, these industry heads will discuss what lies ahead for the arena sector.

The Recovery Sessions, supported by ASM Global and Goodtill, is a series of fortnightly webinars designed to keep the live music industry updated about the international roadmap to reopening. All Recovery Sessions events are free to access for IQ subscribers.

With sustainability now a must-tackle issue, these industry heads will discuss what lies ahead for the arena sector

The first Recovery Sessions event took place on 13 May, hosting high-level discussions on the issues around vaccine passports, the takeaways from this year’s major pilot events, and the road to recovery from the points of view of industry leaders.

The second edition took place on 17 June, hosting topical debates and discussions on the issues around insurancethe top mitigation measures and the importance of political relationships will be in a post-Covid world.

And the third took place on 22 July, quizzing HR heads about the various challenges they face as key markets reopen for business, as well as the opportunities to ‘build back better’ by spreading the recruitment net as wide as possible to help the industry become more diverse, equal and equitable.

To watch the Recovery Sessions: Arenas Working Together panel live on Thursday (21 October), simply head to the dedicated Recovery Sessions page on the website or IQ‘s Facebook page for 16.00 BST/17.00 CEST.

As with the first three events, the session will be available to watch back on demand for IQ subscribers.

To subscribe to IQ for just £5.99 a month, click here.

 


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EAA adds arenas in Poland and the UK to membership

The European Arenas Association (EAA) is welcoming two new venues, taking the total membership to 36 arenas across 20 European countries.

Arena Gliwice, one of the largest and most modern sports and entertainment venues in Poland, has joined the association.

The Gliwice-based arena (cap. 17,000) opened in May 2018 and has since hosted more than 460 events in the region.

The purpose-built arena comprises two separate venues, Arena Glowna and Mala Arena, which each boast “cutting edge technology”.

According to newly elected EAA president Olivier Toth, Eastern European members now total almost 20% of the total membership.

ASM Global’s AO Arena in Manchester, UK, is also joining the membership.

At 21,000-capacity, the AO Arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK

At 21,000-capacity, the arena has the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the UK and the second-highest in Europe.

Toth says the arena will bring “extensive know-how and experience” to the association.

“Also we are looking forward to following their progress as they transform into one of Europe’s most sustainable venues as a result of their current development plans,” he added.

James Allen, GM, AO Arena Manchester, says: “The long period of separation during the global pandemic has highlighted the necessity of collaboration in a supportive manner across Europe, which the EAA champions.

“Our new headline sponsor, AO has strong links with mainland Europe so it is only right that their arena does too. It is a privilege to have our membership application accepted and we look forward to being active members.”

The addition of Arena Gliwice and AO Arena Manchester comes after Spain’s Navarra Arena joined the association last month.

 


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EAA appoints Rockhal’s Olivier Toth as president

The European Arenas Association (EAA) has named Olivier Toth, CEO Rockhal Luxembourg, as president.

Toth succeeds AEG Europe’s John Langford who is stepping down after completing his two-year tenure.

“I can think of no better person to lead the EAA,” says outgoing president, Langford.

“Since joining the association, Olivier has been working tirelessly on behalf of the members to deliver the association’s goal of strengthening ties with the European Union and boosting the advocacy impact of the EAA at EU level.”

Toth, an EAA board member, is a co-founder of the EAA EU Subgroup which morphed into the Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) during the Covid-19 pandemic to open dialogue with EU governing bodies.

“I am confident that the EAA and the ARA will work towards building a stronger and more unified European live sector”

“I am honoured to be appointed as the EAA’s next president and look forward to further developing and delivering the EAA’s realigned objectives and to continue to work closely with the EU on arena-related topics,” says Toth.

“Through the ARA, we have seen how arenas play a vital role as the hub of the live events ecosystem and how necessary it is to have a collective voice for our industry. I think we can all agree the world we are returning to is not the same one we left behind and I am confident that the EAA and its ARA subgroup will work towards building a stronger and more unified European live events sector.”

The EAA’s membership comprises 34 arenas in 20 European countries, including the 6,500-capacity Rockhal, based in Esch-sur-Alzette.

According to the association, which was founded in 1991, its member arenas host over 2,900 annual events attracting a total audience of 19 million people.

 


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EAA adds Spain’s Navarra Arena to membership

The European Arenas Association (EAA) is welcoming Spain’s Navarra Arena (capacity. 11,800) as a new member.

The multifunctional, purpose-built arena opened in Pamplona, northern Spain, in September 2018.

Equipped with the ‘latest technology designed to enhance the efficiency of spaces’, the venue hosts a variety of national and international cultural, sporting, recreational and corporate events.

The addition of Navarra Arena boosts EAA’s membership to 34 arenas across 20 European countries.

“The strength of the EAA comes from the diversity of our members”

The Palacio Vistalegre (Madrid) and the Palau Sant Jordi (Barcelona) are the EAA’s only other Spanish members.

“The strength of the EAA comes from the diversity of our members,” says John Langford, EAA president.

“As we exit the restrictions of the pandemic and look forward to the restart of sport, live music and entertainment programmes in our arenas we are grateful for the shared knowledge and best practice built between us, knowing that having this means we can keep providing great entertainment safely for all those who use our spaces.”

The EAA recently spoke to IQ about how its members plan to get back up and running following the onset of Covid.19. Subscribers can read the full feature here.

 


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ARA launches manifesto for safe return of live

The EAA’s Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA) has launched its manifesto outlining the next steps required for the safe return of live events across Europe.

The ARA, a special-purpose initiative created by members of the European Arenas Association, unveiled the four-point action plan at its second virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg, which took place yesterday afternoon (18 February).

The manifesto, entitled Rationale for a Resilient Return, centres on four core concepts:

“As the advocacy platform for European arenas, the ARA’s manifesto will be an important tool as we prepare for a return to live events while working to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities and the sustainability of our industry,” says Robert Fitzpatrick, ARA co-founder and CEO of the Odyssey Trust, which owns the SSE Arena Belfast (an EAA member).

“The ARA’s manifesto will be an important tool as we prepare for a return to live events”

The second A Game of Two Halves conference followed the live music experiment organised by the Rockhal arena in Luxembourg last week, which saw a series of five live shows take place between 10 and 14 February as part of the Because Music Matters showcase.

Audiences were limited in capacity to 100 people each night, with allocated seats set up around a central stage to ensure a certain level of proximity to the stage while ensuring social distancing controls were in place throughout the venue. Attendees had to wear masks at all times inside the venue, and every participant and audience member was tested before and after each show.

Other safety precautions included contactless audience security screening and access control and guidance inside the venue. Full results from the experiment are expected in around two weeks.

A short behind-the-scenes video from the Rockhal test concerts were screened as part of the conference, following an introductory keynote from Sam Tanson, Luxembourg’s minister of culture.

Speaking at the conference, Tanson praised the efforts of Rockhal and Luxembourg’s health authority, saying she felt these tests were “very important” and showed the potential for live events to return with the “appropriate measures” in place.

Olivier Toth, EAA board member, ARA co-founder and CEO of Rockhal, says: “After almost a year without live events, experiments like our Because Music Matters showcase and other test events that have been taking place across Europe are an important and positive step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our back-to-business strategies, building confidence among all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important.

“We were pleased to share initial feedback from the experiment at the ARA conference and we look forward to reviewing the findings fully, with a view to building towards a model that can be scaled as the industry continues to work towards the safe and sustainable return of live events.”

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg is available to watch again via the EAA YouTube Channel and Facebook page.

 


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Operation Restart: How EAA members plan to reopen

When the European Arenas Association (EAA) celebrated its 20th birthday back in 2011, the live entertainment industry was in the infancy of a record-breaking run, as live music, in particular, grew in popularity, and venues throughout the continent enjoyed the challenges of ever bigger visiting productions, attracting more and more eager fans.

A year ago, many of the EAA’s 36 member venues were predicting 2020 would deliver yet another record year, but the Covid-19 pandemic soon obliterated such optimism and ten months on from the beginning of lockdown measures, there is still no clear indication about when Europe’s arenas will be able to resume operations.

As a result, the EAA finds itself as the central hub for discussions about strategies for getting back to business, with members in constant contact to help plan how they can safely welcome artists and audiences back into their buildings while also protecting their staff and production crews.

“Our EAA conversations over the past year have highlighted that although we are all in a different situation, country by country and city by city, we’re all actually in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues,” reports current EAA president John Langford.

“But having conversations facilitated by EAA membership between venue managers in Germany, France and the UK, for instance, alerts you to how people are responding differently and gives us the opportunity to learn from others.”

“Although [countries] are all in a different situation, we’re all in the same situation when it comes to the use of the venues”

One topic that arena bosses all agree on is that any solutions for reopening need to be universal to facilitate artist plans for international touring, meaning that the discussions that the EAA is hosting will be crucial to the recovery of major live events on this side of the Atlantic.

“Communication with our colleagues across Europe is as important right now as it has ever been,” states Mantas Vedrickas, events manager at the Žalgirio Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.

“The EAA helps us communicate easily, and the sharing of experiences helps us all deal with the situation that we are placed in. It allows the exchange of ideas, and helps find the best ways to implement solutions.”

That sentiment is echoed by arena management across Europe, who are carefully making preparations to get back to business as soon as authorities give them the green light.

Preparations behind closed doors
Many of EAA’s member venues last hosted concerts in March 2020, meaning that they are but a handful of weeks away from having an entire year without shows.

That situation also means that thousands of people have been made redundant, further complicating the task of arena bosses when it comes to opening their venues for audiences.

“Whenever hosting events will be allowed, [Žalgirio Arena] will be all ready to restart”

However, some venues have been more fortunate than others. Vedrickas notes that the Žalgirio Arena has remained open for local basketball team, Žalgiris Kaunas, albeit without fans at games.

“Throughout this entire situation, we have been in constant dialogue with event organisers [and] whenever hosting events will be allowed, we will be all ready to restart,” he pledges.

Representing both the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin and the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Uwe Frommhold VP & COO of AEG Germany tells IQ, “Due to the generous furlough programme of the German government, we have been able to keep our staff on board throughout these tough times for our business. So we will be able to ramp up our workforce fairly quickly, once the situation calls for it.

“Furthermore, we were able to stage several non-concert events – fairs and sports – with reduced capacity, where our hygiene and social distancing protocols were put in practice. So we feel well prepared to gradually bring people back when the pandemic eases.”

In Portugal, Jorge Vinha da Silva, CEO at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, says that outside of the complete lockdown restrictions, the venue had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations such as social distancing, reserved seats, hand sanitisers, thermal cameras, a renovated air-conditioning system, and a complete contingency plan approved by health and safety authorities.

The Altice Arena in Lisbon had permission to run events at 50% capacity, respecting regulations

Silva notes, “Of course, there were no international acts, but it was possible to have smaller events with local artists. We also used the venue for TV productions without audiences, and for the corporate side of the business, [we created] virtual or hybrid events.”
Across the border in Spain, the Palacio Vistalegre in Madrid has been put to similar use.

“We did some film and TV shooting during the pandemic while we were not in lockdown or confined, as they need a big space now for the actors, separate dressing rooms, and different and isolated space for extras and bystanders,” says CEO Juan Carbonel.

“In the meantime – with zero income – we invested and did improvements in the facilities as we upgraded air systems and natural air venting, together with [audience signage], new protocols for security and extra cleaning, etc.”

Carbonel says the venue has also created new protocols regarding access strategies to protect arena workers and visiting crews.

Detailing the plans for a return to hosting events at the Arena Riga in Latvia, chairman Girts Krastins says, “Our approach will be based on local health regulations, but as the summer and first months of autumn were relatively relaxed we were able to host some events with spectators and test some procedures.”

Among those tested protocols were designated entrances, sales of socially distanced tickets, disinfection procedures for visitors and staff, clean zones for sports teams, shielded concessions, and safe food packaging.

“Our ice hockey team is still playing at Arena Riga, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures”

Like Vedrickas in neighbouring Lithuania, Krastins has been able to hone some systems thanks to a sports team that calls Arena Riga home. “Our ice hockey team is still playing at our venue, without spectators, and that allows us to routine our procedures and keep [our] employees.”

And highlighting the importance of local trade bodies, as well as the EAA, on a bigger scale, Krastins adds, “Together with our local venue association we have been in touch with health authorities regarding possible solutions for crowd management under Covid-19 and that is one of the reasons why we were able to operate in summer and autumn.”

That foresight in testing and training is a common theme among EAA members.

At Münich’s Olympiapark, general manager Marion Schöne says, “During the first lockdown, we developed and implemented hygiene concepts for all our venues, and leisure and tourism facilities. We also trained employees as hygiene advisors in an in-house training course.

“From mid-May, we received permission to reopen under certain conditions. We were also able to hold daily concerts in the Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer, but only for a maximum of 400 people.”

“We were able to hold daily concerts in [Münich’s] Olympic Stadium for six weeks in the summer for a maximum of 400 people”

In Prague, Robert Schaffer, CEO at the O2 arena, reveals that the venue has been used several times, including for online concerts, but otherwise arena staff have taken the time to carry out maintenance programmes. But he remains cautious about the doors reopening.

“We hope that from the second [half of the year] we can start to return to normal,” he says. “Specifically, from September, we can start hosting concerts, especially by domestic artists.” International artists will likely not return until 2022, he predicts.

“Protecting the health of all involved is a top priority for us and we will certainly comply with all effective regulations, whether on capacity, time-segregated entrances to all sectors, temperature measurement, staff testing and, of course, regular disinfection,” continues Schaffer.

At the SEC in Glasgow, which includes the SSE Hydro Arena on its campus, director of live entertainment Debbie McWilliams notes that because it hosted a temporary hospital during the pandemic, staff have benefitted from National Health Service advice when planning for the venue’s return to action.

“We are fortunate to have the input of NHS Scotland as they have implemented best practice in managing hygiene and cleaning of the NHS Louisa Jordan [hospital],” she says.

“We hope that from the second half of the year [the O2 arena, Prague] we can start to return to normal”

And McWilliams acknowledges that instilling confidence among fans will be a major part of the rebuilding process. “Customer communication is pivotal in informing and encouraging responsible fan behaviour,” she says.

“In partnership with Ticketmaster we have enhanced our ticket purchase process to include allocated entry arrival times, potential for carpark advanced bookings, a switch to fully mobile ticket delivery to support reduced contact entry, and we are transitioning all F&B and merchandising to cashless. Our comms plan is being developed to take cognisance of individual audience profiles and their needs.”

Meanwhile, in Paris, AccorHotels Arena director general Nicolas Dupeux applauds his team’s flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing situation. “Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events,” he says.

“The first one, in June, was part of the annual Fête de la Musique celebrations, broadcast on French television. In record time, we had to prepare to welcome more than 30 artists, and then reorganise in less than three days to welcome 3,000 people, taking into account all the sanitary measures.”

That ability to rapidly reorganise staff and systems to host major events is one of the arena sector’s unique skills. And facilitated by the communication networks that have developed through EAA membership, arena management across the continent are currently updating plans, often daily, for Covid-safe systems that will help relaunch their businesses and welcome fans back into their buildings.

“Since last March, we have been able to organise a number of events [at AccorHotels Arena, Paris]”

The recovery
While there is still no set date that will allow arenas to reopen for business, the EAA’s members are working tirelessly to ensure they remain up to speed with government guidance, as well as best practice procedures advocated by the association.

AccorHotels Arena boss Dupeux sums up the role EAA will have in the venues sector recovery. “Being part of the EAA gives us a great space to exchange with other venues that face the same challenges – managing venues and re-welcoming our fans – and this has proven extremely useful, especially in the current context.

Membership also gives us access to industry benchmarks on recovery stimulus and actions. Being that our venue is so large and specific, EAA is the only space available to do this on a European level.”

Highlighting just how eager he is to kickstart the recovery, Dupeux discloses, “We have been working since the first lockdown on our reopening protocols to ensure the strictest respect for health and safety: social distancing, reinforced cleaning and disinfection procedures, establishing one-way circulation paths, implementing mandatory face-covering rules and deploying hand-sanitiser stations. Our protocol was successfully tested last June.

“On the digital side of things, we have sped the deployment of our touchless solutions (click&collect and cashless payment) to be ready for reopening. We are also ready to gradually reopen with design offers for production with smaller gauges, all with a ready-to-use setup to limit costs.”

“From autumn, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future”

Addressing her expectations for the coming year, Marion Schöne at Olympiapark in Münich, comments, “In our economic plan for 2021, we have assumed that we will not have any operations in the first quarter; from the second quarter, we hope to be able to reopen our tourism facilities but with limited capacities, and in the summer, the first open-air concerts and festivals must be possible again, albeit with conditions.”

But she warns, “From autumn, and at the latest in the fourth quarter, business must be running again to some extent, otherwise we see black for the future.

“We are represented in various nationwide working groups and are trying to convince politicians to develop a roadmap for the restart, together with the event industry. Our great hopes are the vaccinations, certified and inexpensive corona [rapid testing], as well as further studies that show that events can be held safely.”

In Scotland, McWilliams is equally realistic about the path to doors opening. “Assessing the year ahead, we expect promoter focus to be on the summer and the crucial return of festivals. We expect arena business to return in September following a successful festival programme,” she reports.

Noting that forecasts are reliant on the success of the UK’s vaccine programmes, McWilliams explains, “Following this timeline, we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events at reduced capacities, building to full capacity.”

“we are working with Scottish government on a road map back to full capacity, which will include some test events”

Arena Riga’s Krastins is similarly pragmatic about the coming year. “Our plan for this year is mainly sports,” he states. “We will probably host the World Championship in ice hockey (with or without spectators) in May till June, then some international competitions in ‘bubble’ format, and then the regular ice hockey season starts in August.

“And if shows resume in September or October, we will be ready. In general, I feel that 2021 will be better than 2020, but definitely nowhere close to 2019.”

In Germany, AEG’s Frommhold is also counting on a revival in the second half of the year. “We are clearly looking at late Q3 and Q4 for larger crowds to be allowed back into the venues,” he comments. “Currently, a lot of shows and concerts are moving out of 2021 into 22.

“In Berlin and Hamburg we are in ongoing conversations with local and regional promoters about shows with limited capacity, whenever this is allowed, to bridge the gap to the start of regular touring. We are hoping for May for such shows to take place, but that is hard to predict. Obviously, a sustained business case and social distancing are mutually exclusive, but those events would send a positive message and get people working,” observes Frommhold.

Altice Arena chief Jorge Vinha da Silva is more optimistic that science can help reduce the impact of Covid-19 and allow mass gatherings to become commonplace again. “I hope by mid-year we can start recovering, especially in the third and fourth quarter when I hope our venues progressively return to full capacity with the evolution of the vaccination process or by mass [use] rapid testing.

“Fan research confirms pent-up demand for live, however, we need to be aware of consumer disposable income levels”

“I believe events will return first in a regional setting, as one of the most important factors is to rebuild consumer confidence and none of us can really evaluate the effect of an inevitable economic crisis. On the other hand, after the pandemic, everyone will be willing to share collective experiences such as concerts and festivals and this will be positive for the industry.”

Advocating “Clear, consistent, positive messaging on all customer touchpoints,” McWilliams agrees with Silva’s summary and concludes that ticket pricing could be a key factor to the success of the industry’s relaunch.

“Fan research confirms there is pent-up demand for live events, however, we need to be aware of the impact on consumer disposable income levels,” she warns.

“In a post-Covid world, there may be lots of choice but attendance could be stifled by a change in purchase practice, with consumers displaying self-protection and a need for security in their spending habits. If ticket prices were lower for a period of time this may help mitigate risk.”

 


Read this feature in its original format, with additional insight from EAA president John Langford, in the digital edition of IQ 96.

ARA set to reveal manifesto for Europe’s return to live

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), the purpose-driven initiative created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), is set to launch a manifesto detailing the essential next steps for a safe return to live music and sport across Europe.

The action plan will be revealed during the industry body’s second conference, ‘A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg‘ in association with IQ, which will be streamed live on Thursday 18 February at 1 pm GMT on the EAA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The free virtual event will feature contributions from a range of speakers including John Langford (AEG Europe COO and EAA president), Sam Tanson (minister of culture for Luxembourg) and Alex Jäger, (sport director at Champions Hockey League).

The free virtual event will feature contributions from speakers including John Langford, Sam Tanson and Alex Jäger

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg will also feature a keynote speech and presentation by Sam Tanson, minister of culture for Luxembourg, featuring behind the scenes footage and in-depth analysis from a series of test concerts taking place in Luxembourg at Rockhal arena’s club venue.

Alongside the Rockhal test events presentation and ARA manifesto launch, the event will also feature two panel discussions titled ‘Ready to Rock and Play’ and ‘Working out Way Back To You’ which will explore what support the live events sector needs from policymakers on both a national and EU level to enable long-term resilience and future growth.

Opening addresses will be delivered by Rita Brasil de Brito (chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee, Portuguese presidency of the council of the EU and Viviane Hoffmann (deputy director general at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture).

ARA’s first virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves, which streamed in December 2020 is available to watch online here.

 


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ARA conference to analyse Rockhal test concerts

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a newly formed purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), has announced part two of its virtual conference, A Game of Two Halves, in association with IQ.

A Game of Two Halves: The Return Leg will hear key representatives from EU institutions, national governments, and live event sectors explore how large capacity venues across Europe are preparing for a safe reopening, particularly using test concerts.

The conference will reflect on a series of test concerts taking place in Luxembourg at Rockhal arena’s club venue between 10–14 February.

Taking place under the banner of ‘Because Music Matters’, each event in the five-night series will be limited to 100 people – all of whom will be required to take a Covid-19 test prior to the event and again seven days later, wear a mask throughout the event, and socially distance inside.

The series is hosted in conjunction with the national health inspection authority.

Behind the scenes content and insights from the Rockhal test concerts will be screened as part of the conference, offering an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned and next steps and helping to frame the discussion around what still needs to be done.

“[The Rockhal tests] are an important step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our strategies”

The event will also explore what support the live events sector needs from policymakers on both a national and EU level to enable long-term resilience and future growth.

Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal in Luxembourg and co-founder of the ARA says: “Building on the success of our first #AGameofTwoHalves webinar in December, we are proud to return with a second event that will explore how we are working towards the safe return of live music and sport. Our Because Music Matters showcase at Rockhal is an important step forward in testing the safety measures we can employ to support our back to business strategies. I look forward to sharing our experience and insights from these events.”

Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust, owners of The SSE Arena, Belfast and co-founder of the ARA added: “As the advocacy platform for European arenas, the ARA is proud to provide an opportunity for the industry to come together with key EU decision-makers to prepare for a return to live events, whilst working to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities and the sustainability of our industry, which will be central to the economic and societal recovery of countries across Europe.

“Together, we can build regional and national frameworks, with international collaboration that will help us get back to business.”

The free online event will be streamed live on Thursday 18 February via the EAA YouTube channel and Facebook page.

ARA’s first virtual conference in December 2020 is available to watch online here.

 


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ARA conference: “Arenas are the workhorses of the biz”

Industry pros from music, sport and the EU yesterday came together for a virtual conference organised by Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a newly formed purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), in association with IQ.

The conference, titled A Game of Two Halves, opened a dialogue about the need for a pan-European strategy for the return of live music and sports events indoors.

The live music session invited speakers MEP, Monica Semedo; Herman Schueremans, CEO, Live Nation, Belgium; Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal, Luxembourg and Jason Danter, production manager/director for artists including Madonna, Lady Gaga and Iron Maiden.

The panel’s central focus was the role of arenas in the industry’s ecosystem, which heard speakers explain why it is important to keep the venues open.

Danter says that from a touring point of view, arena shows are what bands often strive to achieve at the peak of their careers.

“There’s a huge difference in the number of arena bands versus the number of stadium bands. Not every band can sell the number of tickets to play stadiums but many will play arenas,” he says.

“If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world”

He goes on to emphasise the importance of arenas as a major employer in the music industry, as well as a substantial revenue source.

“Arenas have a huge amount of shows with a huge capacity of people coming through it. The shows demand a level of production and a budget which means we get to employ more people, and we get to give contracts to more companies. Essentially, arenas workhorse of the touring world. If arenas are not a spoke in the wheel, they’re the hub… a very important part of the touring world,” he concludes.

Rockhal CEO, Toth, ran with the analogy, adding that if arenas close for good, it’ll have a knock-on effect for the industry: “The different stakeholders in our industry are the spokes to that hub, helping it operate as a full wheel. If you take out that hub, obviously the spokes are not of any good use. It’s not about getting arenas back to business tomorrow or next week but it’s about starting to plan because we need six months–nine months to get started again.”

Speaking about the impact of Covid-19 on the live music industry, Live Nation Belgium CEO Schueremans, says: “We were in shock. A cultural industry that didn’t exist 45–50 years ago, that started from nothing and created a lot of jobs and VAT was going to be destroyed. As a live industry, we were not internationally well organised, even though we organise tours all over the world.”

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification”

MEP Semedo followed that point, emphasising the importance of pan-European co-ordination with the restart of European and international touring.

“We need harmonised and co-ordinated Covid measures within the EU in order to have clarification on whether artists and people can cross borders and whether they need to quarantine or not. There needs to be a one-stop-shop with conditions for artists, arenas and events, reducing the bureaucratic burden. It’s important that all actors in this cultural and creative industry work together,” she said, wrapping up the session.

Closing the event, Gordon Masson, editor of IQ Magazine, hosted a discussion with ARA co-founders: Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal in Luxembourg; Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust; the owners of The SSE Arena, Belfast; and Adrian Doyle, Board Member, EAA.

The event also featured addresses from a range of speakers including John Langford, EAA president; Tamas Szucs, director for culture and creativity at the European Commission and a keynote speech by Sam Tanson, minister of culture, Luxembourg.

Commenting after the event, Langford said: “Arenas play a crucial role in communities right across Europe. This event has opened important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and enable arenas to reopen. We would like to thank our speakers for their valued contribution and for all of our industry colleagues for joining us. With continued discussion and collaboration, we will create a framework that will help us to rebuild these important industries.”

 


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EAA announces Arena Resilience Alliance conference

The Arena Resilience Alliance (ARA), a special purpose group created by the European Arenas Association (EAA), will host a free virtual conference in December exploring the urgent need for the development of a pan-European strategy for the return to live events.

The conference, titled A Game of Two Halves, will take place on 8 December and focus on why ‘getting fit for purpose’ will be essential to bringing live music and sports events back to arenas and large-capacity venues across Europe, according to the association.

“This event will open important dialogue around why we need unified conditions that will allow music, culture and sports to return to arenas and arenas to re-open their doors for fans of live events,” comments John Langford, president of the EAA.

The virtual conference will address the essential role of arenas as the central hub of the live event ecosystem across Europe, and as key partners to those who organise, promote, play and perform, says the EAA. According to the newly formed ARA, venue closures this year have resulted in the loss of more than 35,000 indoor live events, representing over 113 million lost ticket sales.

Through the event, the ARA hopes to open dialogue with ministers, MEPs and European commissioners with the aim of developing a regulatory framework for the mandatory requirements and measures that enable venues to re-open and facilitate the return of live touring. “A single framework will facilitate business continuity, provide job security and protect the wellbeing of all citizens, employees, freelancers, third-party contractors, players, performers visitors and fans,” the EAA says.

A Game of Two Halves speakers will include Sam Tanson, minister of culture, Luxembourg; MEPs Tomasz Frankowski and Monica Semedo; Tamas Szucs, director of the European Commission’s directorate-general for education, youth, sport and culture; Jason Danter, production manager/director for artists such as Madonna, Lady Gaga and Iron Maiden; Adrian Doyle, board member, European Arenas Association; Ole Hertel, GM, Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin; Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO, The Odyssey Trust Company (owner of the SSE Arena, Belfast); Luca Scafati, director, business operations, Euroleague; Herman Schueremans, CEO, Live Nation Belgium; Szymon Szemberg, CEO, European Hockey Clubs Alliance; and Olivier Toth, CEO, Rockhal, Luxembourg.

“We are at a pivotal moment in terms of the planning needed to protect and rebuild the live events ecosystem across Europe”

The first session, focussing on sport, will be a discussion around ‘Aligning product and place: delivering a new fan experience.’ Following a short break, the focus will turn to live music and will explore ‘why a pan-European approach is crucial for live music’s return.’

Closing the event, Gordon Masson, editor of IQ Magazine, will host a fireside-style discussion with ARA co-founders, Oliver Toth and Robert Fitzpatrick.

“We are at a pivotal moment in terms of the planning needed to protect and rebuild the live events ecosystem across Europe,” explains Toth. “Through this special event, the ARA hopes to open important dialogue between the industry and key EU decision-makers to ensure we move forward with a single framework to facilitate the safe return of live events.”

Robert Fitzpatrick adds: “Arenas are central to the cultural fabric of countries throughout Europe and are a key player in the national and regional tourism ecosystem. Without them, event promoters, artists, indoor sports teams and a host of third-party service contractors are at risk of going out of business. The importance of wellbeing for all venue staff and stakeholders cannot be underestimated; our industry is on the precipice of a major mental health crisis.”

The ARA’s A Game of Two Halves virtual conference takes place on Tuesday 8 December 2020, from 14.00–16.30 CET (13.00–15.30 GMT), and is free to attend. The conference, hosted in collaboration with the European Arenas Association and IQ Magazine, will stream live on the EAA YouTube channel.

 


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