International Ticketing Report 2021: Pandemic Lessons
The International Ticketing Report is a one-off annual health check on the global ticketing business, with emphasis on the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The past two years have been turbulent for the business, but with consumer demand for live events now at an all-time peak, the challenges of fulfilling the most packed event schedule in history will test ticketers to the hilt.
Staffing, vouchers schemes and refunds, demand, consumer behaviour, communication, new products & services, secondary ticketing, pandemic lessons and recovery are among the challengers addressed by industry-leading experts in this extended report.
IQ will publish sections of the International Ticketing Report over the coming weeks but subscribers can read the entire feature in issue 105 of IQ Magazine now.
To read the previous instalment of the report on secondary ticketing, click here.
Dealing with the various Covid restrictions, lobbying for government support, and having to make difficult decisions over staff cuts have been unprecedented tasks for ticketing company senior management over the past 18 months. But what have been the biggest lessons that they have learned throughout the crisis?
Eventim’s chief operating officer Alexander Ruoff is optimistic following the long pause in business. “People’s longing for live entertainment remains unbroken even after 18 months of pandemic, and the fans’ loyalty to their favourite artists,” he says.
“What was and is also great is the cohesion of our employees during the pandemic and how everyone worked together to ensure that CTS Eventim emerges even stronger from the crisis.”
But he is all too aware that the industry needs to do more to elevate its status in the minds of politicians. “Culture and the people’s need for culture and live entertainment apparently do not always enjoy the status in politics that would be desirable,” he says.
“Our industry was the first to go and the last to return, and it was tough,” says Ticketmaster’s Mark Yovich. “As a global business with global teams, we had colleagues experiencing every possible pandemic scenario at different times – so learnings, advice, and sympathetic ears were invaluable. They say your colleagues are like your family, and I never felt that more than over the last 18 months.
“Promoters and venues have had the opportunity to look into their ticketing needs in far greater detail than ever before”
“Throughout it all, to see our teams come together at this time to innovate, build, and execute incredible features as well as deliver incredibly complex customer service support in such short timeframes was truly inspiring.
“It was our job to deliver the tools our clients so desperately required in this crisis – and we did just that. So much so that we’ve had an abundance of new clients come knocking who saw this work and are now turning to us in need of a reliant, industry-leading ticketing service as they navigate the return to live.”
Total Ticketing‘s Martin Haigh sees opportunity for boutique ticketing firms to gain a stronger foothold as the recovery plays out.
“We feel that promoters and venues have had the opportunity to look into their ticketing needs in far greater detail than ever before and as such are way more self-educated and open to exploring new opportunities. So, this is a good time to erode into the incumbents’ market share,” he says.
At Dice, Russ Tannen also sees opportunity. “We discovered a huge underserved live music audience living outside of major cities,” he states. But he laments that, “There isn’t enough transparency for artists in live.”
TixTrack CEO Steven Sunshine observes, “We have seen the past 18 months as a strong positive as it has made ticket sellers more interested in mobile and cloud-based solutions as well as digital ticket delivery, timed-entry ticketing, and many other features and functions that have been a part of our ticketing offering even pre-Covid.”
“We discovered a huge underserved live music audience living outside of major cities”
On a positive note, Skiddle’s head of marketing, Jamie Scahill, believes consumer confidence will not take long to rebuild. “We’ve seen a yearning by all demographics of the public to get back out and experience events and we’re confident that this demand will be set to continue as more and more people become comfortable with going out again,” he says.
“The pandemic has highlighted how good the live entertainment ticketing industry is,” states The Ticket Factory‘s Richard Howle. “Our primary concern was to do the right thing by our clients and customers and that passion to deliver great service has shone through.
“As an industry we normally only make the headlines when things go wrong and the fact that we have gone through the last 18 months with very little in the way of bad headlines, particularly when compared to other industries, such as travel, is testament to what a good job we have done.”
And looking at things from a personal point of view, AXS director of ticketing Paul Newman says, “The last 18 months have made me realise the importance of both physical and mental wellbeing, and I fully intend to carry forward the good habits I have developed in both my professional and personal life.
“Business-wise, I think that maybe the ticketing industry realises there is a stronger need to work together on finding solutions to the issues we all face.”
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Marcia Titley named MD of Eventim Sweden
Marcia Titley has been appointed managing director for ticketing operation Eventim Sweden.
Titley has been MD of Eventim Norway for almost four years and is also part of the Eventim Scandinavia Management Team.
She will continue as MD of Eventim Norway, adding Eventim Sweden to her current role.
“It has been very exciting to introduce Eventim solutions to the Norwegian market,” says Titley. “I’m looking forward to working closely with the Swedish team, and sharing our experiences and expertise from Norway, to further grow our business in Sweden and in Scandinavia as a whole”.
“I’m looking forward to working closely with the Swedish team, and sharing our experiences and expertise from Norway”
Jens B. Arnesen, CEO of Eventim Scandinavia, says: “I am convinced Marcia will bring a lot of best practice into the Swedish market and will be able to carry out our growth strategy together with the local team. In collaboration with our Scandinavian Support and Marketing teams we are able to help our partners by providing both local and cross border experience.”
Titley replaces Jay Sietsema who will end his position as MD for Eventim Sweden on 30 November 2021 to “pursue new challenges outside the company”.
Eventim Scandinavia has offices in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm and is a fully owned company within German live entertainment behemoth, CTS Eventim.
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Bristol Ticket Shop closing after 30 years
Independent UK-based ticketing company Bristol Ticket Shop has announced it is closing down, citing overdue payments from a debtor.
Launched in 1987 as a concession in Virgin shops and then in record retailer Our Price, Bristol Ticket Shop later found its own home in the centre of the UK city of Bristol. With a focus on supporting the local music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop also sold tickets to events such as Glastonbury Festival and Download Festival.
“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing,” reads a post on the ticketer’s Facebook page.
“All the staff here are devastated. The list of incredible events we have supplied tickets for is overwhelming. There are so many regular customers, old and new, that we have really enjoyed talking to over the years and we will miss you all dearly.”
“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing”
The management team owes the closure to “news that a debtor owing a large amount of money was unlikely to be able pay in a timely manner”, as well as to the illness of the company’s owner, which has “had a large impact on the resilience of the business”.
The company states it is instructing a third party to negotiate with promoters in order to ensure that “there is as little impact to the customer as possible”. Although the ticketer aims “to honour tickets for future events”, it notes this may not always be possible, in which case refunds will be issued.
Bristol music fans have responded to the “sad news”, showing support for the ticketer, which formed a “huge part” of the local live scene.
According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, the primary ticketing business in the UK is “incredibly competitive”, with major international companies including Ticketmaster, See Tickets, AXS, Eventim and Eventim taking a large share of the market.
Many local independent outfits, such as Manchester’s Ticketline, Birmingham’s the Ticket Factory, Leeds’ Ticket Arena and Nottingham’s Gigantic – now majority owned by DEAG – also perform well.
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Apollo Nights Summer Series to make 2020 return
London-based concert promoter Senbla celebrates the success of the inaugural Apollo Nights Summer Series, which took place from 16 to 20 July in partnership with the 5,000-capacity Eventim Apollo.
The promoter has confirmed that the concert series will return for a second year in July 2020.
The five-night long debut series saw performances from Marc Almond and George Benson, as well as two joint shows from Burt Bacharach and Joss Stone.
Non-dining tickets for the Apollo Nights Summer Series were priced from £39.50 for Marc Almond and £45 for other shows.
Guests could also opt for a dining experience, curated by chef Bryn Williams.
“When I first came to visit the newly restored Apollo, I was struck by what a beautiful venue this really is,” comments Senbla managing director Ollie Rosenblatt. Since opening in 1932, the grade II-listed venue has hosted acts such as the Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue.
“When I first came to visit the newly restored Apollo, I was struck by what a beautiful venue this really is”
Rosenblatt explains that the idea to “combine the best of food with music” came from viewing award shows at the venue.
“The response and feedback from both consumers and artists have been overwhelmingly positive,” adds Rosenblatt. “For 2020 the aim is to build on this.”
Darren Murphy, general manager of the Eventim Apollo, says he was “delighted” to collaborate with Senbla to put on the concert series.
“It was a rare opportunity to work with a promoter who brings music experiences to life and it was a delight to host the shows with these talented artists in our iconic venue,” says Murphy.
Senbla puts on more than 200 concerts and shows a year throughout the UK. Sony Music Masterworks recently took a majority stake in the promoter, as both look to expand offerings in the live industry.
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TivoliVredenburg partners with Eventim
Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg, one of the Netherlands’ largest concert venues, has agreed a ticketing partnership with Eventim Netherlands.
As of its autumn/winter cultural season, the venue, whose main room has a capacity of 2,000, will utilise CTS Eventim’s Eventim.Inhouse system to manage ticket bookings via its own web system. TivoliVredenburg hosted some 1,700 events attended by more than 1m visitors last year.
Suzanne van Dommelen, managing director of the venue, says: “The cooperation with Eventim is a great match. As TivoliVredenburg consists of six different halls – some seated, some unseated – and as many of our visitors are used to buying their tickets at a physical point of sale, we are quite a demanding client.
“It’s fantastic to add TivoliVredenburg to our list of clients and partners”
“The Eventim.Inhouse solution provides us with great support, giving us more resources to fulfill our ambitions in other areas. [It also] optimises the customer journey for our visitors.”
Henk Schuit, managing director of Eventim Nederlands, adds: “It’s fantastic to add TivoliVredenburg to our list of clients and partners. We will do everything we can to offer an outstanding service that goes beyond selling tickets.
“With our approach, we not only want to enable our customers to work more efficiently, but we want to give them the opportunity to focus on creating even more high quality live entertainment content for the widest audience possible.”
Eventim partners with new ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’
Following on from three sold-out years in Stockholm, Mamma Mia! The Party will launch at London’s O2 next spring, with CTS Eventim as its exclusive ticketing partner.
The show first launched in the Swedish capital in 2016, a co-production between Björn Ulvaeus, former Abba member, and Ingrid Sutej, a veteran European live music and entertainment producer. Speaking about the show’s new home in London, Ulvaeus says, “We believe bringing Mamma Mia! The Party to The O2 will add to this already vibrant cultural destination and provide the perfect location for our exciting new show.
“[The show] has been created to let guests continue enjoying the party and enjoy being part of the show themselves.”
Set to the sounds of Abba, the show will transform one of the O2’s venues into a “wonderfully exotic Greek taverna,” telling the story of its landlord Nikos and his family. Alongside theatre and music, the 500-capacity show will serve guests a three-course Mediterranean meal.
“We want to do our part to ensure that as many visitors as possible will enjoy the timeless and joyful music of Abba”
Last week, Eventim was named as the show’s exclusive ticketing partner in the UK. Tickets will go on sale this autumn for next spring, with 200,000 being made available annually. On the exclusive partnership, Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of Eventim, comments: “I firmly believe that the show in London will seamlessly build on its overwhelming success in Stockholm.
“We want to do our part to ensure that as many visitors as possible will enjoy the timeless and joyful music of Abba.”
Mamma Mia! The Party adds to Eventim’s growing live entertainment portfolio, which has already helped the company achieve significant gains in the first half of 2018. Details of ticket pre-sales will be made available later this year, on the show’s official website.
VMS announces series of new partnerships and appointments
VMS Live has announced a series of new deals which managing director Steve Forster has said “will be key to their future success.” The deals include two new venue partnerships and the appointment of BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Timzee to the position of development manager.
The first of the deals is with the Liverpool Olympia, which will become the Eventim Olympia Liverpool. The name change is the result of the ‘mutually supportive’ agreement with Eventim, which was made earlier this year. The deal includes a five-year partnership with the venue owners, Argent Leisure, and will see £250k invested into the 1,900-capacity space.
Speaking about the new partnership, Chris Zorba of Argent Leisure comments: “The new agreement with VMS will allow Silver Leisure to invest in the fabric of the building to improve the customer experience.
“We very much feel that the area and the Olympia in particular are on the cusp of another golden age.”
“As an entirely self-funded independent, with no debt or bank loans, we are incredibly proud of the way we have developed the business over the last 7 years”
The second of the new deals is a five-year agreement with the University of Exeter’s Student Guild. VMS will take over the direction of the University’s events and entertainment programme, as well as the operation of their venue, the Lemon Grove. Both sides are hopeful the deal will revamp the fortunes of the Lemon Grove, with Guild director of commercial services Nicola Carter saying it is, “an incredible opportunity to develop our existing programme of events and to showcase the Lemon Grove as a leading venue in Exeter for live music.”
Working closely with this new acquisition will be newly appointed development manager Timzee. Focusing particularly on the student venue section of VMS’s portfolio, he will work on developing new ‘club’ brands for the the company. Tim brings with him an extensive list of experience, additional to being a BBC 1Xtra DJ, he also acts as content director for productions including a 3,000 capacity warehouse brand in his home city.
VMS hopes these new developments will encourage lasting success for the company. Commenting on its success until now, Forster says: “As an entirely self-funded independent, with no debt or bank loans, we are incredibly proud of the way we have developed the business over the last seven years.” He goes on to name this a ‘really important period’ for the company.
OLG upholds ban on self-printed ticket fees
A German appeals court has upheld the ban on charging fees on print-at-home tickets, quashing an appeal by CTS Eventim.
Munich-based Eventim told IQ last September it intended to appeal against a ruling that declared as unlawful the €2.50 fee the company charges on its ‘print @ home’ tickets.
However, the Higher Regional Court of Bremen (Hanseatisches Oberlandesgericht, OLG) yesterday sided with Bremen district court, which passed the original judgment, declaring the €2.50 charge for self-printed tickets – as well as the €29.90 charge for ‘premium shipping’, which also includes a processing fee of an indeterminate amount – found in Eventim’s terms and conditions to be “invalid”.
“processing fees should be included in the so-called normal price of the ticket”
The company was also ordered to pay all legal costs.
A press release from the OLG (pictured) confirms its view that “processing fees should be included in the so-called normal price of the ticket”.
The court did, however, grant CTS Eventim permission to appeal the case once more: this time to the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) in Karlsruhe, effectively Germany’s supreme court.
In a statement provided to IQ, Eventim says it intends to do so: “The OLG has recognised the fundamental nature of the issue and has approved a revision before the BGH. We have appealed against the OLG’s verdict and assume that it will not stand before the BGH.”
Photo: © Ajepbah / Wikimedia Commons /
Security under review after Manchester Arena bomb
As venue operators around the world begin to process the news about the horrific attack on music fans in Manchester, live event security experts are reporting high volumes of queries from an industry that will have its work cut out to reassure concertgoers in the days and weeks ahead.
With festival season due to kick off in just a couple of weeks, urgent reviews of security measures are happening among production crews around the UK, while National Arenas Association chairman Martin Ingham – like most others in the arenas sector – spent the morning in operational meetings with his staff.
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today,” said Ingham. As well as UK arenas, Many London theatres were also understood to have spent the morning reviewing security procedures.
BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend festival is due to take place in Hull from 27-28 May. A spokesperson for the festival told the NME, “The health and safety of everyone involved in Big Weekend is now our primary focus and we are carrying out a full assessment, with the police and our partners, of every aspect of the festival.”
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today”
Security expert Chris Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, tells IQ that he had received calls from as far afield as New Zealand and emails from clients around the world in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
“We’ve just created a course with Network Rail on identifying behavioural characteristics and trying to stop perpetrators in their tracks. But the difficulty is that the modus operandi of these terrorists is changing and there is no way you can infiltrate where there are lone terrorists who don’t communicate with others and just decide to carry out the act.
“Another difficulty is that you are asking low-paid staff to engage people they might perceive as suspicious, but if you’re getting £7.50 an hour, are you really going to put your life on the line? So it has to be the police, or [Security Industry Authority] operatives who do this.”
Kemp believes that terrorists are targeting precisely the places and events where people least expect such atrocities to happen, while those behind such attacks are also getting more savvy about what to wear and how to behave to avoid arousing suspicion. “Unfortunately there has to be a limit on how far you go with things because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical. But we are continuously working to create more deterrents and we’re doing a lot more stuff with venues and venue associations to improve security measures,” he says.
“There has to be a limit on how far you go with things, because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical”
Iridium Security director Reg Walker observes that “there has clearly been some hostile reconnaissance done beforehand for this bombing.” Although early reports state that it was a lone bomber using homemade explosives, Walker speculates that he would have to have had a support structure and that police and security services are already working hard to identify the bomber and any potential collaborators. At press time, reports were already emerging about the arrest of a 23-year-old man in connection with the Manchester attack.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” says Walker. “It appears that this individual waited outside and attempted to walk into the venue on egress before detonating the device with a hand switch. But the fact that he was in a sort of no-man’s land, in a concourse between the venue itself and the train station, is significant.
“Most venues already have security in depth and the cooperation between venue operators and the security services is very good, so that most venues have become hard places to attack – but at the same time this person targeted an area on the periphery.”
Walker warns that it is virtually impossible to make any venue completely secure. “Even somewhere like Buckingham Palace, with its state-of-the-art security, still has incursions,” he says. “But on the flip side, this is the first mainland bombing in the UK since 2005, so the number of incidents that have been prevented is significant.”
Advising venue operators on how to strengthen security measures, Walker concludes, “It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security. And it’s also imperative that venues carry out regular drills so that new staff can benefit from that training and everyone knows what to do if there is an attack.”
“It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security”
While a number of live music operations declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the attack, one expert points out that what happens both in the short- and long-term will depend on the outcome of the UK government’s emergency Cobra meeting.
“The information that filters down through the SECOs (security coordinators) will determine the response of promoters and event organisers,” said the source. He added that the police and security services would determine what additional measures may be required for summer festivals and concerts in general, but this may not be communicated for a number of days. “Obviously, trying to get hold of counter terrorism experts in the police today isn’t possible, but they are very effective at sharing information with us, so we expect to be briefed in the next day or two.”
Paul Reed, general manager of the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK noted that security at music festivals, as well as venues, is continuously reviewed as the top priority of promoters is the safety of their audiences. He tells IQ that in recent years, there has been a vast increase in dialogue and intelligence sharing between police and festival organisers, while initiatives such as NaCTSO’s counter terrorism Argus exercises are also helping to strengthen security efforts.
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns”
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns,” says Reed. “I must emphasise the excellent security record of UK festivals. AIF members are experts in organising safe and secure events for between 800 and 60,000 people and a highly effective private security industry has built up around events in this country.
“In addition, organisers have a constant dialogue with law enforcement and other relevant agencies at a local, regional and national level and there is increasingly more intelligence sharing between these agencies and promoters through initiatives such as Operation Gothic and the Project Argus training events. Security measures at festivals are reviewed constantly and the top priority of promoters of festival and concerts is always the safety and security of audiences. If additional measures need to be introduced, we are confident that they will be.”
Industry pays tribute to Manchester bomb victims
Figures from across the live music industry have been quick to offer their condolences for the victims of the deadly terror attack at Manchester Arena yesterday evening. At least 22 people died and many more were injured after an Isis-linked suicide bomber detonated an improvised device outside the foyer of the 21,000-cap. venue after a show by Ariana Grande.
SMG Europe, which manages and operates the arena (pictured) for property firm Mansford, has confirmed that “an incident occurred in a public space outside of Manchester” and offers its “thoughts and prayers […] to the victims of this tragic incident and their families”.
Several other venues also offered their condolences. Paul Thandi, CEO of Birmingham venue operator NEC Group (Genting Arena, Barclaycard Arena), comments: “Our thoughts are with those who were affected by the terrible incident at the Manchester Arena last night. We’re shocked and saddened by what has happened.”
A statement from The O2 in London, meanwhile, says staff are “shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy in Manchester”. The AEG-operated venue adds that it is in discussion with “the promoters of Ariana Grande’s tour [Live Nation]” as to whether the remainder will go ahead. Grande is booked to play The O2 on 25 and 26 May.
Tony Watson, sales director for First Direct Arena in Leeds, a sister SMG venue, comments: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends and colleagues associated with the [Manchester] Arena incident.”
Grande herself tweeted: “From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry.”
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 23, 2017
Michael Dugher, the newly appointed chief executive of UK trade group UK Music, comments: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this horrific attack. It is even more distressing that children and teenagers have been targeted.
“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our brave emergency services and the venue staff. We know venues take security very seriously and do all they can to minimise risks, including training staff how to deal with major incidents. As a result of police investigations there will no doubt be a further review of these measures.
“Music has the power to bring people together and is so often a celebration of peace and love. We will not let terrorism and the politics of violence, hatred and division conquer that spirit.”
Freemuse, an NGO which campaigns for artistic freedom, has criticised the attack “in the strongest possible terms”. “Freemuse calls for a thorough and impartial investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice,” says executive director Srirak Plipat. “Targeting artists and audiences is a cowardly act that will never succeed in silencing artistic expressions and cultural life.”
A statement from Live Nation, the promoter behind Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, reads: “We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy, and our hearts and thoughts are with those impacted by this devastating incident.”
“The appalling and cowardly attack of Manchester is an attack on our freedom, culture and life,” adds Marek Lieberberg, managing director of Live Nation in Germany. “We mourn for the innocent victims of a blind and brutal terror.”
“Music has the power to bring people together … We will not let terrorism and the politics of violence, hatred and division conquer that spirit”
“Our thoughts today are with all those innocent people whose lives were so cruelly taken yesterday evening in Manchester, and with all those who lost a loved one,” says Munich-based CTS Eventim. “[W]e are sure that Manchester will emerge even stronger from this past night as one of Europe’s centres of pop culture. Our sincere condolences go out to all those affected, and we wish them the loving support of their friends and family.
Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, speaking on behalf of the Concert Promoters’ Association, says: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by last night’s senseless attack at the Ariana Grande concert. This is heartbreaking news and our thoughts and love are with everyone in Manchester at this time – in particular those that lost their lives or were affected by this devastating incident and their families and friends.
“All members of the Concert Promoters’ Association will continue to work with venues, police, stewarding companies and the relevant authorities, and it is our understanding that outside of the Manchester Arena and the Ariana Grande tour, all other planned concerts and events will go ahead, as advertised, unless ticketholders are directly advised to the contrary. Fans should check with venues direct for specific updates.
“In light of this attack on our concertgoing community, we ask for the support and understanding of our patrons with regard to any security measures which are in place for the safety of the public, and urge everyone to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.”
Both the National Arenas Association (NAA) – of which Manchester Arena is a member – and European Arenas Association (EAA) say they are “shocked and deeply saddened” by the attack.
“Our membership stands in solidarity with the arena, the responders and investigators working hard in Manchester,” reads the EAA statement, “and we are heartened to read of the stories of bravery and courage shown by those teams and the local emergency services last night. Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to those who have been injured and to the families of those who have so tragically lost their lives.”
This article will be updated with more comments as we receive them.