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Manchester Arena attack: Inquiry publishes first report

There were multiple “missed opportunities” to prevent or minimise the impact of the Manchester Arena bombing May 2017, the public investigation into the attack has found.

The Manchester Arena Inquiry, led by chairman Sir John Saunders, today (17 June) published the first of three reports about the terror attack, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. The report, which looks into security arrangements at the arena on the night of the bombing, concludes that bomber Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack.

In his 204-page report, Sir John found a number of security failures that he says would have reduced the impact of the bombing, if not prevented it completely. The “most striking missed opportunity”, the report details, came from a member of the public, who raised concerns to stewards about Abedi’s suspicious behaviour in the run-up to the attack.

Although the stewards, Mohammed Agha and Kyle Lawler, took steps to investigate the man’s concerns, with Lawler stating that he thought “there was something wrong” with Abedi’s behaviour and trying to get through to a superior on the radio, his efforts were ‘inadequate’, says Sir John.

While approach by a steward or BTP officer may have caused Abedi to detonate his device, “it is likely that fewer people would have been killed” than were on 22 May, says Sir John. (Abedi ultimately set off his bomb as fans were leaving the show.)

Other failings identified by the inquiry include the lack of British Transport Police (BTP) officers in the arena’s foyer, for which there was “no satisfactory explanation”; a CCTV blind spot near the arena’s City room that allowed Abedi to hide from security cameras; and inadequate counter-terrorism training given the stewards.

Sir John additionally found that after the Paris attack of November 2017, the arena’s operator, SMG, should have “sought to push the security perimeter out, beyond the City room” to make “hostile reconnaissance” of the arena (now called AO Arena) more difficult for Abedi.

“We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report”

Among Sir John’s recommendations are passing ‘protect duty’ legislation (sometimes called ‘Martyn’s law’, after one of the victims) for large venues such as arenas which would require them to consider terrorist threats and implement further protective security and preparations.

The public inquiry was set up in September 2020 to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the bombing, and followed an earlier review headed by Lord Kerslake whose findings were published in March 2018. Though part one of Manchester Arena Inquiry says it holds BTP, SMG and security provider Showsec, “principally responsible for the missed opportunities”, the Kerslake report found that SMG and Showsec’s response to the attack went “above and beyond” the call of duty.

In a statement, SMG (now part of ASM Global), says that while security around live shows, and at Manchester Arena particularly, has “changed dramatically” since the 2017 attack, the company will take on board Sir John’s recommendations after having reviewed the full report in detail.

The statement reads: “On 22 May 2017, 22 innocent people tragically lost their lives and many others were injured when a terrorist detonated a bomb. The attack shocked the nation and the devastating impact was felt far beyond the city of Manchester.

“The impact was also felt across the industry and the environment in which we all operated changed dramatically that evening.

“Since the inquiry began, questions have been asked of SMG and others about the security operations in place that evening. Throughout, we’ve been committed to working with the inquiry to help the families of victims and survivors better understand the events of that evening, as well as look at the lessons learnt.

”During the inquiry process, the experts stated that they did not see evidence that the security operation in place at Manchester Arena was out of step with the operations being used at other comparable venues. In fact, the standards that we adopted were in line with published industry guidance at the time. However, this doesn’t give us any comfort. Our guests came to the arena to enjoy a show but were met with a horrific tragedy. For that we are truly sorry.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night and our security measures continue to evolve to reflect the threats we face today. Since the attack, we have further extended the security perimeter, adopted a more intensive approach to checking and searching including the use of walk through metal detectors and installed a new CCTV and access control system.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night”

“However, out of respect for those who tragically lost their lives on 22 May 2017, and those whose lives changed forever, we can never be satisfied that we have done enough. To that end, we will be reviewing the report findings in detail and the recommendations that have been put forward. Any additional actions we should take, we will take as we continuously challenge ourselves to be better.

“Finally, we share the chair’s admiration for those who responded so selflessly and heroically to this atrocity.”

“The chairman, Sir John Saunders, and the inquiry legal team have put an enormous amount of work and effort into this important public inquiry,” reads a statement from Showsec. “Showsec has learnt lessons from the terrible events of 22 May 2017 and, as the chairman has acknowledged, Showsec improvements are already in place.

“Having been provided with the first volume of the report, Showsec will take some time to consider both Sir John’s criticisms and his recommendations before responding as he has requested. As always, the families are at the forefront of our minds.”

Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the BTP, comments: “We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report today.

“I would like to reassure everyone that British Transport Police, as you would expect, has been reviewing procedures, operational planning and training since this dreadful attack took place in 2017. We continue to work closely with our emergency service colleagues, Greater Manchester Police and other experts to strengthen our multi-agency preparedness for major incidents. We are committed to ensuring our staff are supported and prepared to undertake the roles they are required to do.

“We will never forget that 22 people tragically lost their lives following the truly evil actions of the attacker and many received life changing injuries . They continue to be at the forefront of our thoughts as are their loved ones and all those affected by this dreadful attack.”

 


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Tom Benson Stadium latest addition to ASM portfolio

ASM Global has added the second venue to its extensive portfolio since its inauguration earlier this month, announcing a management agreement for the 23,000-capacity Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio.

The venue operator, which formed as the result of a merger between AEG Facilities and SMG Europe, has signed a deal with Hof Village, the owner of the Johnsons Controls Hall of Fame Village entertainment complex, where the stadium is located.

“This wonderful venue is located within one of the most important places for pro football fans anywhere in the world,” says Bob Newman, president and CEO of ASM Global. “ASM Global’s management of this special and unique facility is an exciting addition to our family of venues.”

ASM Global’s Blake Schilling has been named as the stadium’s general manager. Schilling will also continue to oversee operations at ASM Global’s nearby Canton Civic Center (5,200-cap.).

“We will ensure that the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium is not only a great football stadium but a spectacular concert venue as well”

“ASM Global is a world-class company that will help us provide the highest quality of operation and service to our fans,” comments HOF Village LLC chief commercial officer Ed Kiernan.

“We are pleased to bring on board a company of their calibre as we expand the programming in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, ensuring that it is not only a great football stadium but a spectacular concert venue as well.”

ASM Global manages 22 other major stadiums around the world, including Soldier Field in Chicago (61,500-cap.), Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans (74,295-cap.), Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (83,500-cap.) and the NRG Stadium in Houston (72,220-cap.).

The Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium is the second addition to the ASM Global portfolio in as many weeks, following the recently announced Gateshead Quays (12,500-cap.) venue complex in the UK.

 


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ASM Global to operate new £260m venue complex

ASM Global will be the venue management provider for a new £260 million arena, conference and exhibition centre on Gateshead Quays in Newcastle, as the operator further expands its UK footprint.

ASM Global, the result of a merger between SMG Facilities and AEG Facilities today  (11 October) cleared by the UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority, has signed a long-term agreement with developer Ask Real Estate and investor Patrizia to operate the 12,500-capacity venue.

It is estimated that the ten-acre Gateshead complex, due to open by 2023, will generate £30m for the economy and attract up to 300,000 new visitors to the region each year. Global architecture firm Hok has been appointed to design to new arena.

“We are thrilled to have selected ASM Global as our operator,” comments Ask Real Estate MD John Hughes.

“ASM Global have a global reputation for excellence and their experience will be key in helping us to develop what will be one of Europe’s key cultural locations”

“They have a global reputation for excellence and their experience will be key in helping us to develop what will be one of Europe’s key cultural locations. We have been working closely with them to ensure the arena will be able to accommodate the rapid advances in sound and production technology.”

ASM Global’s executive vice president for Europe, John Sharkey, says the operator is “delighted to bring to market such an ambitious development”.

“We look forward to building upon the success of the Utilita Arena (11,400-cap.) and Whitley Bay Playhouse (630-cap.), and leveraging our regional strength to further develop the events landscape and grow the north east economy,” says Sharkey.

In addition to its venues in the north east of England, ASM Global’s UK portfolio includes the O2 Arena (20,000-cap.), the SSE Arena, Wembley (12,500-cap.), Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), the First Direct Arena in Leeds (13,700-cap.), Glasgow’s SSE Hydro Arena (13,000-cap.) and the York Barbican (1,900-cap.).

 


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Ade Dovey joins SMG Europe programming team

SMG Europe has appointed Ade Dovey, formerly of Manchester venue operator Mission Mars Group, to its UK event programming team.

Dovey joins a team responsible for the development and programming of content for SMG’s UK venues, Leeds’s First Direct Arena (13,781-cap.), Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), Newcastle’s Utilita Arena (11,000-cap.), Aberdeen’s P&J Live (16,000-cap.), Hull’s Bonus Arena (3,500-cap.) and the York Barbican (1,900-cap.). He will work alongside SMG Europe event development and bookings manager, Sarah Hodson.

In his previous role as head of programming at Mission Mars, Dovey curated and programmed three award-winning venues, Albert Hall, Gorilla and the Deaf Institute, producing over 700 events a year.

He comments: “It’s an absolute privilege to be joining SMG Europe – the calibre of its venues, its rich history of events and the teams behind each establishment define the meaning of ‘world class’. Personally, and professionally it’s a natural progression from programming venues from 200 capacity to 2,000, and now to concert halls and arena level.

“We’re delighted to have someone of Ade’s calibre and track record of success on board”

“I can’t wait to deliver new content and build on the legacy that SMG contributes to the local and national music industry.”

John Sharkey, executive vice-president of European operations for SMG, adds: “We’re delighted to have someone of Ade’s calibre and track record of success on board and we look forward to working with him and the team to deliver a wave of rich, new and exciting product for our events calendar as we develop our offering across our UK venues.”

SMG Europe manages entertainment venues and F&B operations at locations throughout Europe, including in the UK, Germany, and Poland. Pending regulatory approvals, its parent company, SMG, is set to merge with AEG Facilities to create ASM Global.

 


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Manchester Arena’s Matt Ward passes

Matt Ward, the well-liked and widely respected head of event marketing and PR for Manchester Arena, has passed away after losing a two-year battle with cancer. He was 45.

Ward, who died on 2 May 2019, joined the arena, then called Manchester Evening News (MEN) Arena, in 2006, and had been in his current role since 2016. He is survived by his wife, and two young children.

In a letter to staff announcing Ward’s passing, arena GM James Allen paid tribute to his sense of humour and creativity, as well as his compassion and sensitivity, especially in “challenging times”, alluding to 2017’s terrorist attack.

“It is with great sadness that I inform you that our colleague and friend Matt Ward has died from cancer,” he wrote. “Our sincere condolences go to his wife, young children and the rest of his wonderful family. He will be greatly missed by all at Manchester Arena and across the wider SMG team.

“Matt will be greatly missed by all at Manchester Arena and across the wider SMG team”

“Matt joined the arena in 2006 [after] demonstrating exceptional marketing and communications skills honed during his tenure at Alton Towers and the Ambassador Theatre Group. He was promoted to head of event marketing and public relations in 2016, and was a hugely integral part of the successful senior management team, loved by all his colleagues and the larger community he came into contact with.”

Allen tells IQ he has received “some wonderful tributes on behalf of his family from right across our industry”, which “only confirmed” how highly thought of Ward was.

“Matt was a fantastic communicator who combined a unique sense of humour with an impressive creative streak that ensured his marketing and communication campaigns stood out from the rest,” continues Allen.

“He worked with skill, sensitivity and compassion, so that during our more challenging times, all output was managed for the benefit of not only the arena, but also for the SMG Europe group.”

 


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SMG’s UK venues go digital with Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster is introducing digital ticketing technology across all SMG Europe-operated venues in the UK, beginning with the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena.

Fans attending events at SMG Europe venues will be able to receive tickets directly to their phones, send tickets securely to friends and use Ticketmaster’s fan-to-fan marketplace to re-sell tickets to fellow concertgoers.

Ticketmaster has also introduced tickets with moving barcodes to prevent to use of screenshots for counterfeiting tickets.

SMG Europe, the European subsidiary of leading venue operator SMG, runs 11 venues across the UK, including the First Direct Arena in Leeds (13,500-cap.), the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre in Scotland (8,500-cap.) and Newcastle’s Utilita Arena (11,00-cap.)

Digital tickets will be immediately available for all upcoming events at the Manchester Arena, including shows from Westlife, Carrie Underwood, Kiss, Boyzone, Cher and Christina Aguilera.

The digital ticketing technology will roll out across the remaining venues in due course.

“We are committed to bringing the benefits of digital tickets to fans across the country”

“We know fans want the buying and using of tickets to be as simple, straightforward and safe as possible, which is why we are excited to begin rolling out digital tickets at our flagship venue, the Manchester Arena,” says John Sharkey, executive vice president of European operations at SMG.

“Being able to partner with Ticketmaster to do this also helps to give fans the peace of mind that while they can now receive their tickets straight to their mobile, it is being powered by a ticket agent they know and trust,” adds Sharkey.

Ticketmaster UK’s managing director Andrew Parsons comments: “We are committed to bringing the benefits of digital tickets to fans across the country. Partnering with SMG Europe to introduce this technology across their entire UK estate is a major step in that journey.”

Ticketmaster is expanding its digital ticketing offering worldwide, recently introducing the technology to Marriner Group-operated Forum Melbourne, making it the first fully digital venue in Australia.

SMG Europe has used Ticketmaster as its official ticketing partner since 2016.

 


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Mixed picture as UK biz reveals 2018/19 gender pay gap

For the second year running, the UK live music business has revealed its gender pay gap (GPG) statistics, showing a mixed picture in which strides are being made towards gender equality, but where female employees are still vastly outnumbered by their male colleagues at an executive level.

All companies in mainland Britain with more than 250 employees were given until 5 April 2019 to report their gender pay gap – defined as the “difference in the average hourly wage of all men and women across a workforce” – for the previous 12 months to the government equalities office. Companies also published data on bonuses and the breakdown of employees’ genders by pay quartile. (Read last year’s results here.)

While it should be noted that GPG measures the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across a whole business – rather than the pay received by male and female employees for doing the same job – all companies surveyed by IQ reiterated their goal of narrowing the gap ahead of next year’s survey and beyond.

See below for how nine of the UK’s largest live music businesses stacked up in 2018/19.

“We are committed to narrowing the gap over time in our business”

Live Nation (Live Nation (Music) UK Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 80% (+18%)
Pay gap (median): 23% (-8%)

Live Nation UK’s mean GPG is the widest of the nine companies featured, growing 18%, to 80% (though its median gap narrowed), in 2018 – a reflection, says president Denis Desmond, of the under-representation of women in the wider music industry, especially in the upper echelons.

Writing in LN’s 2018 gender pay gap report, Desmond says the company is “committed to increasing women and diversity in our workforce and being an inclusive environment where everyone can succeed”.

“Women are under-represented in the music business. The gender pay gap is reflective of this, particularly with more men in the revenue-generating roles at the higher end of the salary scale,” he comments.

“This is something we want to see change. Real change requires a dual and sustainable approach; increasing awareness of the career opportunities available and ensuring we do all we can to develop and retain the women already making the industry such an important contributor to the wider UK economy.

“We are committed to bringing more women into our workforce through promoting all types of career options, and particularly helping influence young people to consider our industry. Alongside this we are creating more apprenticeships and internships designed to give people real skills needed to enter this business for a long-term and fulfilling career.”

Desmond reveals Live Nation recently conducted a “job levelling review across the UK” as part of an overhaul of its approach to reward and compensation decisions, in a bid to boost fairness. “Our robust policies and training programmes ensure that we are continually working to ensure no bias exists in our recruitment processes and ensuring we provide full support to all employees in balancing their family lives with the unique demands of the music business,” he continues.

“We see gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity to increase awareness of these challenges and are committed to narrowing the gap over time in our business.”

“Progress is being made, with 75% of all appointments at head of department level and above awarded to female candidates”

AEG/The O2 (Anschutz Sports Holdings Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 43.6% (+0.3%)
Pay gap (median): 36.8% (-4.4%)

AEG declined to comment on its 2018 gender pay gap, though it made its report available on Monday 8 April.

While its mean GPG widened slightly, its median gap fell by 4.4%, and there are a slightly more women in two pay quartiles – the top (28%, +2%) and lower quartiles (66%, +1%) – compared to 2017. The percentage of women who received bonus pay was flat at 22%, compared to 7% more men (39%).

“Despite having a fairly even split of male to female employees overall, our gender pay gap is significant and we have more work to do to remove this,” writes AEG Europe president Alex Hill. “This gap is created by a higher proportion of women than men in our lower-paid roles and more men than women in our higher-paid roles.

“Our gender pay gap is not acceptable and we must make even greater effort to work towards gender pay neutrality across our business.”

However, he adds, “[p]rogress is being made, highlighted by our figures showing that 75% of all appointments at head of department level and above were awarded to female candidates, and since April 2018, seven of the top 20 roles are now occupied by female employees.”

“SMG Europe is confident that its gender pay gap does not stem from paying men and women differently for the same or equivalent work”

SMG Europe (SMG Europe Holdings Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 16.6% (+4.6%)
Pay gap (median): 6% (+2%)

Arena operator SMG Europe’s pay gap slightly widened in 2018, although the proportion of female employees actually increased in every pay quartile. Its results, an SMG spokesperson tells IQ, are skewed by the nearly 20% more women in the lower quartile compared to 2017/18.

“We have undertaken significant resourcing activity in the past 12 months [6 April 2017–5 April 2018]. with 650 new colleagues joining our team,” they say. “The majority of new colleagues are casually engaged team members, of which 66.5% are female and 33.5% male. The recruitment gender ratios were consistent with gender ratio of applicants – ie no positive or other discrimination.

“As of April 2018, a total of 82% of our population comprised casual roles, compared to 77.7% the previous year.  All our casually engaged colleagues, who make up the majority of our workforce, are paid at the same hourly rate for the same role, regardless of gender. The shift in our gender pay gap year-on-year is explained by the higher proportion of casually engaged individuals, of which there are proportionately more females this year, which is explained, as noted above, by the higher percentage of female applicants than our existing complement across our casually employed team.

“Our 2018 report also illustrates that women occupy 47% of the highest paid roles, compared to 43.3% the previous year, demonstrating that we have improved the proportion of women occupying the highest paid roles within the organisation.

“SMG Europe is confident that its gender pay gap does not stem from paying men and women differently for the same or equivalent work. Rather its gender pay gap is the result of the roles in which men and women work within the organisation and the salaries that these roles attract.”

“Whilst we are happy that this is going in the right direction, reducing the GPG remains a key priority for Global”

Global (Global Radio Services Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 32.7% (-2.7%)
Pay gap (median): 19.4% (-1.1%)

Global, the UK’s second-largest festival operator, says it remains “committed” to closing its gender pay gap, which narrowed by 2.7% on a mean basis in 2018.

“Our workforce is balanced and fluctuates each month somewhere between 45%/55% female and male employees; however, we recognise that not having enough women in senior leadership roles is a significant factor in driving our GPG,” reads the company’s 2018 gender pay gap report. “In 2018, we are pleased that we have made some improvement across all measures, and reduced the GPG to 32.7%. Whilst we are happy that this is going in the right direction, it remains a key priority for Global, and creating a diverse and fair culture continues to be incredibly important.

“However, we recognise that this is a long-term strategy that takes time and focus, and that we won’t look different overnight. We have identified a number of initiatives existing and new, that will help us to continue to improve.”

These initiatives include its Global Apprenticeship scheme, launched in September 2018, which welcomed 17 apprentices and graduates into programming, digital, video, marketing, technology and commercial roles – of which 53% were female and from a BAME (black, Asian or minority ethnic) background – and a six-month leadership programme, whose alumni include 20 female middle managers who will be supported “in growing their careers at Global”.

“Our gender pay gap reflects the broader societal challenges of getting more women into the technology sector”

Ticketmaster (Ticketmaster UK Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 44% (+8%)
Pay gap (median): 23% (+0%)

Ticketmaster’s mean GPG widened to 44%, while its median difference remains at 23%, the same gap as in 2017/18.

According to Mark Yovich, president of Ticketmaster International, its pay gap reflects the dearth of women working in the technology sector – and, if the figure was adjusted to remove employees working on the tech side, the GPG is 4% in favour of female staff.

“Ticketmaster is a vibrant, diverse place to work. We believe that diversity adds value to our workforce and delivers a better service to our fans,” he writes in TM’s 2018 pay gap report.

“As a technology-led business, our gender pay gap reflects the broader societal challenges of getting more women into the technology sector. There is an acute skills shortage in this area, with women accounting for just 25% of all UK STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] graduates. Only 16% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women [source: NCWIT]. Illustrating this challenge, if you remove our technology employees, our mean gender pay gap is minus 4%.

“Of course, we want to see more women in the technology industry and have been working with several organisations who provide opportunities for women to get into tech, including Women Who Code, codebar, Code First: Girls, and have an official partnership with Code Your Future. We host and support these groups with funding and regular meet-ups in our offices. We launched our own female employee resource group, WE Nation, in 2015 which continues to roll strong through our business in both the UK and across our international markets.

To ensure fairness, we have systemised our approach to reward and compensation decisions, including conducting a job levelling review across the UK. Our robust policies and training programmes ensure that we are continually working to ensure no bias exists in our recruitment processes.

“We see gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity to drive awareness about the challenges in our industry. We will continue to support women at all levels in our business. We are committed to increasing women and diversity in our workforce and being an inclusive environment where everyone can succeed.”

“Women are under-represented in the live music industry, and the GPG reflects this”

Academy Music Group (Academy Music Group Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 21% (-3%)
Pay gap (median): 6% (+5%)

Live Nation-owned venue operator Academy Music Group (AMG) narrowed its mean pay gap to 21% in 2018, though its median GPG widened 5%.

Denis Desmond says AMG, whose venues include O2 Brixton Academy and Shepherds Bush Empire, is focusing on elevating more women into management positions.

“A key area of focus for us is achieving greater representation of women into venue management roles, which are our most senior positions and therefore attract higher rates of pay and bonuses,” he writes. “For venues, the median figure reflects our pay equity in the large volume of roles we regularly hire for where we have greater gender balance.”

“We are training managers to ensure no bias exists in our selection processes and ensuring we provide full support to all employees in balancing their family lives with the unique demands of the music business,” he continues, adding that, like Live Nation, AMG is “committed to narrowing the gap over time in our own business.”

“We are optimistic that plans to … attract, recognise and develop talent will have a real effect on improving gender pay equality at NEC Group”

NEC Group (National Exhibition Centre Ltd (The))

Pay gap (mean): 11.4% (+1.3%)
Pay gap (median): 9.7% (+2.6%)

NEC Group, which operates five arenas and convention centres in Birmingham, as of April 2018 had 1,861 employees and casual workers, of which 838 were men and 1,023 women. Its median pay gap, which widened 2.6% in 2018, nevertheless bests the UK average of 17.9%, says chief operating officer John Hornby.

Its most recent figures reflect the smaller proportion of men in lower pay quartiles compared to 2017.

“Overall the group’s profile is characterised by high numbers of employees working full and part time in the company’s catering, retail and hospitality operations, and smaller numbers of specialist technical, catering, supervisory and managerial roles,” reads the company’s 2018 GPG report. “The gender pay gap for the group presents a balanced picture, but there is still more to be done to ensure consistent improvement.

“In the past year, further investment has gone into developing our learning and development offer for all staff; for example, the New Leader programme and Experienced Leader programme, targeting those in leadership roles and those for whom a leadership role is the next career step. Since 2014 the team has trained over 260 new managers, with roughly an even male and female candidate profile.”

Hornby also highlights NEC Group’s talent programme, whose fifth cohort of 19 promotions is roughly gender equal, and its apprenticeship scheme.

“We are optimistic that some of these long-term plans to both attract, recognise and develop talent will have a real effect on improving gender pay equality within the NEC Group,” he concludes.

“Even though we’re ahead of most of our music industry peers … we’re not complacent about it – we know we’ve got more to do”

DHP Family (DHP Family Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 11.6% (-2.1%)
Pay gap (median): 5% (+1.5%)

Nottingham-based promoter and venue operator DHP Family reported a 2% fall on its already low mean gap compared to last year’s figures, and the company says it does “not have an issue with equal pay. Our gender pay gap derives from fewer female employees within our venue management teams. This is a trend within our industry, whereby there are many more male venue managers across all levels, in particular the more senior the positions.”

While its mean pay gap is well below the national average, its bonus gap (the difference in bonus pay between men and women) remains high, at 48.5%, despite the percentage of women eligible doubling in 2018/19. “We are continuing to work on female representation for bonus eligible roles, and our initiatives to attract and retain females within our venue management and senior management teams are slowly reducing this difference,” according to its 2018 report.

“We’re fully committed to reducing our gender pay gap and I’m pleased to see we’ve made further progress this year,” DHP Family owner George Akins tells IQ.

“Even though we’re ahead of most of our music industry peers and the UK national average, we’re not complacent about it; we know we’ve got more to do and we’ve introduced a number of initiatives that will help in the years ahead.”

“We are making positive steps, but we know there is more we can do”

PRS for Music (PRS for Music Ltd)

Pay gap (mean): 16.8% (-0.4%)
Pay gap (median): 9.7% (-1.8%)

Pamela Harding, human resources director at performance rights organisation PRS, welcomes its narrowing pay gap but says there is still more to be done.

She comments: “Although we have seen a slight improvement, we have a continuing gender pay gap as there are fewer women in senior positions than men at PRS for Music. We believe that real progress is achieved through influencing business culture, and in 2018 we commenced our programme to recognise drivers of unconscious bias to better support our efforts to promote diversity and act inclusively. We also continued to take positive action with our new ‘Dignity at Work’ policy and by working with industry experts in diversity and inclusion.

“We are making positive steps, but we know there is more we can do. As we look further ahead, we remain committed to engaging all levels of our business to encourage, support and exemplify our core values and celebrate our differences.”

 


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Leeds First Direct Arena becomes biggest in Yorkshire

SMG Europe-managed First Direct Arena in Leeds, UK, has announced a “significant” increase in floor standing capacity reportedly making the arena Yorkshire’s largest indoor entertainment venue.

Following a review of capacities and operational procedures, the standing capacity for shows has increased by 16%, to 4,321. This brings the venue’s overall capacity to 13,781.

“Standing floor tickets for concerts at the First Direct Arena are always in high demand and it is great that even more guests can now be accommodated in this area,” says general manager Jen Mitchell. “The entertainment industry is constantly evolving and our operational teams have been working tirelessly to ensure that the First Direct Arena can cater for all event types.”

“Standing floor tickets for concerts at the First Direct Arena are always in high demand and it is great that even more guests can now be accommodated”

“As well as this capacity increase, we have also developed a number of additional configurations using our unique retractable seating and draping systems to provide maximum flexibility,” adds Mitchell.

Since opening in September 2013, major acts including Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Drake and Morrissey have performed at the arena, which extended its naming-rights agreement with British retail bank First Direct in 2017.

SMG Europe’s arena portfolio includes the Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), the Utilita Arena in Newcastle (11,000-cap.), the SSE Arena, Belfast (11,000-cap.) and the Event Complex Aberdeen (12,500-cap.), due to open this summer.

 


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ASM Global: SMG and AEG Facilities to merge

AEG Facilities and SMG, which between them operate and run many of the world’s most important large entertainment venues, have announced their intention to merge, forming a new company called ASM Global.

The merger, announced today by private-equity firm Onex – since December the owner of SMG – will create a venue management colossus spanning five continents, with a portfolio of 310 arenas, stadia, convention centres and performing arts venues.

Onex and AEG Facilities will each own 50% of ASM Global following the merger, expected to be completed in late 2019.

AEG Facilities-run venues include the SSE Arena, Wembley, and the O2 in London (the latter of which is the world’s busiest arena); AccorHotels Arena in Paris, Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin; Barclays Center in New York; and Staples Center in Los Angeles. However, venues owned by AEG – such as the O2, AccorHotels Arena, Mercedes-Benz Arena and Staples Center – are excluded from the deal, with AEG retaining control of its owned venues and entertainment districts in Los Angeles, London, Hamburg and Berlin, as well as its sports, music and sponsorship divisions. Onex is contributing its entire equity investment in SMG into the merger, which remains subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

SMG, and its European subsidiary, SMG Europe, run Manchester Arena in the UK; König-Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany; and arenas, stadia and convention centres across North America.

“This merger is a major step for our industry. We are excited to bring together these complementary businesses”

The new company will be based in LA, with a secondary presence in SMG’s home city, West Conschohocken, Pennsylvania.

Wes Westley, president and CEO of SMG, comments: “This merger is a major step for our industry. We are excited to bring together these complementary businesses to further elevate the standard of excellence in venue management. We plan to accelerate innovation by combining our expertise to deliver increased value and offer enhanced capabilities to municipalities and venue owners worldwide.

“At the same time, we expect that this transaction will offer employees at both our corporate headquarters and field operations tremendous new opportunities.”

“It is an honour and privilege to be a part of this exciting new company, which brings together the two organisations where I have worked for the bulk of my professional career,” adds AEG Facilities president Bob Newman, who becomes president and CEO of ASM. “This transaction draws upon the depth of our combined talent and resources to create an organisation that will deliver value and long-term success, as well as innovative services to our clients around the world.”

AEG competitor Live Nation was believed to be in the running to buy SMG before it was acquired by Onex.

 


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Newcastle Arena becomes Utilita Arena

Arena operator SMG Europe has announced that its 11,000-capacity arena in Newcastle, UK, has entered into a naming rights partnership with energy supplier Utilita Energy. The former Metro Radio Arena will now be known as the Utilita Arena.

Utilita Energy currently supports sporting venues, including the football stadiums Villa Park (Aston Villa), Ibrox Stadium (Rangers) and Selhurst Park (Crystal Palace). The company hopes that the partnership with Newcastle Arena will facilitate expansion in the entertainment industry.

“We know just how important this venue is to the north east, so to have our name above the door is an absolute honour,” comments Nic Rhodes, head of brand marketing at Utilita Energy.

“As Utilita continues to grow, our Utilita Extra customer rewards programme becomes increasingly important to us – and the Utilita Arena will play a major role in this. The venue has a brilliant reputation across the UK so we are absolutely delighted be on board.”

The energy supplier takes over from regional radio station Metro Radio as Newcastle Arena’s naming partner. The radio station sponsored the arena for 15 years and will continue to be the official media partner for Utilita Arena.

“We know just how important this venue is to the north east, so to have our name above the door is an absolute honour”

Ailsa Oliver, who became general manager of Newcastle Arena in January 2017, says: “We are thrilled to begin this new phase in the arena’s timeline. I look forward to an extremely dynamic relationship with Utilita Energy and our continued exciting work with Bauer Group Media Metro Radio going from strength to strength.”

Executive vice-president of venue operator SMG Europe, John Sharkey, says he is “delighted” by the appointment of the new naming right partner.

SMG Europe’s arena portfolio includes the Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), the First Direct Arena in Leeds (13,500-cap.), the SSE Arena, Belfast (11,000-cap.) and the Event Complex Aberdeen (12,500-cap.), due to open this summer.

“The north east has an exceptional community spirit and loyal connection with the Arena. We are excited for all involved to reap the benefits Utilita will now offer not only to guests of the venue but the industry as a whole,” comments Sharkey.

This year, Utilita Arena will welcome artists including Boyzone, George Ezra, Westlife, Rod Stewart, Little Mix and Kiss. The arena is the largest concert and exhibition venue in the north east of England.

 


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