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OVG advances plans on new Manchester arena project

Oak View Group (OVG) is launching a second consultation period for a possible new arena at the Etihad Campus, home to Manchester City Football Club, in the east of Manchester, UK.

The US-based venue development and investment group confirmed its interest in building a major new concert venue in Manchester at the end of August, working in partnership with Manchester City FC owner City Football Group. The venue would rival ASM Global’s 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena.

The second round of meetings opens on Thursday 28 November, with the consultation period running until Monday 16 December. OVG held a previous round of four consultation events in October, to share initial ideas and gauge community priorities.

The latest proposals will be shared online, allowing local residents to voice their opinions on a dedicated hotline if they are unable to attend the sessions.

“A world-class arena has to work for the community so continual dialogue to understand priorities and concerns is a vital part of our feasibility process,” comments Mark Donnelly, OVG International’s chief operating officer.

“A clear objective is that a new arena must deliver a range of training and job opportunities for local residents, especially for young people”

“A clear objective is that a new arena must deliver a range of training and job opportunities for local residents, especially for young people. We also know that sustainable transport and venue management plans that minimise any impact to the community on event days are key priorities.

“During this next stage of consultations,” continues Donnelly, “we will provide an update on work underway to address community priorities, and we look forward to further feedback and inputs from East Manchester residents and businesses.”

Co-founded by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff, OVG launched its London-based overseas division, OVG International, at ILMC in March. The new Manchester arena would be the company’s first purpose-built venue in the UK, joining the Santa Giulia Arena in Milan as its second international project.

OVG has established a further presence in the UK and Europe through its International Venue Alliance, a network of independent entertainment and sports venues, which counts Silverstone Circuit, Birmingham’s NEC Group venues and Düsseldorf’s D.Live venues as members.

 


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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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AEG backs $115m Sapphire sports/entertainment fund

Technology-focused venture-capital investor Sapphire Ventures has launched Sapphire Sport, a US$115 million fund which will invest in early-stage start-ups “at the intersection of sports, media and entertainment”.

According to California-based Sapphire, which manages more than $2.5 billion worth of assets, Sapphire Sport combines the firm’s investment experiences with “premier global sporting, media and lifestyle brands”, including Manchester City FC owner City Football Group, other US sports teams from the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) and investors such as AEG, the Bank of Montreal, Adidas and US television giant Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG).

Sapphire Sport launches with a portfolio of five start-ups: including Tonal, a digitally connected home fitness system; Mycujoo, a live football streaming platform; Overtime, a digital sports network; Fevo, a social commerce solution for live events; and Phoenix Labs, an independent gaming studio launched by the creators of Dauntless.

Sapphire Sport is be co-led by Doug Higgins, managing director and co-founder of Sapphire Ventures, and Michael Spirito, who joined Sapphire Ventures as managing director in September 2018 from 21st Century Fox.

“The opportunity we are addressing is vast and diverse”

“Venture capitalists need to continue to reinvent and innovate in order to stay relevant,” comments Higgins. “We created Sapphire Sport to serve as a preeminent investment vehicle in a nascent and dynamic sector where technology investment experience is in increasingly high demand. In partnership with some of the most innovative team owners and sporting brands in the world, we are bringing Sapphire Ventures’ investment experience to the global sport marketplace.”

Other Sapphire Ventures investments in the entertainment space include Ticketfly, now owned by Eventbrite, and India’s Paytm, the parent company of ticketing platform Insider.in.

Adds Spirito: “The opportunity we are addressing is vast and diverse. Sport is the one thing we can all agree on – even as we may disagree on our fan loyalties.

“I joined Sapphire Ventures because I believed that they had the best platform to build an investment firm of consequence in this industry. From a market perspective, sport includes all global sports media rights, distribution technologies, content creation, sponsorship, digital fitness, esports, betting, data and everything in between.”

 


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SeatGeek expands with Man City, SeatGeek Stadium deals

SeatGeek’s primary ticketing ambitions have taken a major step forward with a new multi-year deal with Manchester City FC, one of the world’s most famous association football clubs.

The partnership, the terms of which were not disclosed, sees New York-based SeatGeek become Manchester City’s official ticketing partner as of the 2018–19 season, with the club using its SeatGeek Enterprise primary ticketing platform to provide its supporters with a “best-in-class buying experience”.

SeatGeek – until mid-2016 a strictly secondary ticketing platform – entered the primary market that summer via a strategic partnership with software company TopTix. Its first primary client was Major League Soccer (MLS), the highest-level football league in the US.

It later acquired TopTix and its SRO⁴ solution outright, and now counts venues including the Concergebouw (1,974-cap.) in Amsterdam, the Theatre Royal (847-cap.) in York and the English National Opera at London Coliseum (2,359-cap.) and sporting organisations the Dallas Cowboys, Royal Dutch Football Association, Sporting Kansas City, Leicester City FC and Los Angeles FC among its SeatGeek Enterprise clients.

“Chicago is an incredible city for live events, and we look forward to welcoming locals and visitors to SeatGeek Stadium”

Manchester City has the fifth-highest revenue in international football, at €527.7 million (US$644.5m) in 2016–17, and won the English premiership in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

A day before the Manchester City deal, the company additionally announced it is to take over naming rights on the 28,000-capacity Toyota Park football stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, which is to be renamed SeatGeek Stadium.

SeatGeek says it will work to bring the stadium – home to football (soccer) teams Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Chicago Red Stars – more live events, including “premier concerts, music festivals and international sporting events”, alongside Bridgeview and venue manager Spectra.

The new name will kick in follow Chicago Fire’s final home match in the 2018 season.

“Chicago is an incredible city for live events, and we look forward to welcoming locals and visitors to SeatGeek Stadium,” says SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza.

 


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