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Manchester Co-op Live and AO Arena in licensing row Published Date: 25/02/2024

A row has broken out between bosses of the two largest indoor UK arenas with one accusing the other of trying to block its opening for competition reasons.

The BBC reported that at a licensing meeting for 23,500 seat venue, Co-op Live, heard ASM Global, who operate AO Arena, had objected over "public safety" reasons.

Co-op Live is set to open in April.

Developer Oak View Group, said it was "disappointed" to hear ASM's objection, which it felt was "competition based".

"We feel there's very little from a licensing point of view," Mark Donnelly, chief operating officer, he reportedly said.

Peter Kay is due to perform at the opening of the £350m Co-op Live venue, which will usurp the 21,000 capacity AO Arena to become the UK's largest indoor arena.

The O2 Arena in London holds 20,000.

In written submissions to Manchester City Council's licensing committee, the operator of AO Arena said it only wanted to promote licensing objectives to "safeguard public safety and the prevention of public nuisance". 

The firm argued Co-op Live should close by midnight at the latest, and not be given the ability to open 24/7 on 25 occasions every year as requested.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said that was thought to be an effort to host sports events like UFC for a global TV audience.

During the hearing at Manchester Town Hall, Mr Donnelly, hit out at the city's other arena.

"We are quite disappointed to see [ASM] are trying to put conditions on us when they operate with an unrestricted licence."

"We feel these are competition based. We feel there's very little from a licensing point of view.

"A lot of transport issues were dealt with at planning and that was approved unanimously".

Earlier objections from Greater Manchester Police, council trading standards, seven councillors, and three residents had been withdrawn after revisions were made by Co-op Live

However, 32 residents, two councillors, the council's public health team, ASM, and charity, the Music Venue Trust (MVT), maintained their opposition to the licence being granted.

Mr Donnelly also criticised MVT's objection claiming that was because Co-op Live had "declined" to sign up to a £1-per-ticket levy which funds the MVT's "pipeline investment fund" for grassroots venues.

MVT's Niall Forde said this suggestion was "inflammatory" and "entirely false".

He said MVT had supported the opening of the "23,500-seat auditorium bowl" but took issue with the venue's "ancillary spaces" being allowed to stay open later into the night because of the impact on neighbouring residents and businesses.

Co-op Live would take trade off smaller venues, he added.

Source: BBC