Arena appoints UK and Europe chief

Arena Events Group has appointed Chris Morris as chief executive of its UK and Europe division, along with extending a contract with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

Morris has over two decades of experience in the sports, leisure and hospitality sectors and will join the event solutions and temporary infrastructure company on March 19. He was most recently managing director of the events and destinations division of CH & Co, a leading catering and hospitality group and spent nine years working with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as managing director of Twickenham Experience, responsible for the sales and management of all match day hospitality services and non-match day events at Twickenham Stadium.

Prior to that, Morris was managing director of the sports and events division of Compass Group, a provider of hospitality and associated services for sports venues and events across the UK. Greg Lawless, chief executive of Arena, said: “Chris brings a wealth of knowledge to his new position and I believe he will be a great asset to the Arena Group as we continue to grow the UK division over the coming years.”

The appointment of Morris comes after Arena in January said it was taking a more conservative outlook for 2019 after its share price was sent tumbling by the announcement of a significant reduction in the overall profitability of its UK division.

Arena provided a trading update for its financial year ending December 31, 2018, detailing the difficulties experienced by its UK arm. Arena said it had experienced strong revenue growth across the UK, US and Middle East divisions with acquisitions contributing as expected.

However, whilst the UK structures and scaffolding business exceeded revenue expectations, an increase in new and one-off projects resulted in the division experiencing operational issues, resulting in what Arena said were materially higher incremental costs to service these events to the company’s standard.

Arena said the operational issues were being addressed, including a number of senior management changes within the division. However, these issues led to what Arena said was a “material reduction” in the overall profitability of the UK division.

Meanwhile, following what it has described as competitive tender process, the LTA has awarded five-year contracts to Arena and Neptunus, a specialist in event structures and temporary buildings, for the Fever-Tree Championships, the annual ATP 500 grass court tennis tournament staged at The Queen’s Club in London.

Between 2020 and 2024, Arena will install the 10,000 temporary seats needed for ticket-holders around Centre Court and Court 1, while Neptunus will build their Evolution II temporary structure to house 3,450 square metres of ticket-holder and hospitality facilities.

Tournament director Stephen Farrow said: “Most people visiting the tournament don’t realise that, apart from the historic Queen’s Club Clubhouse, all of the infrastructure at the Fever-Tree Championships is temporarily built and then removed over a 10-week period every year – an immensely complex and challenging undertaking.

“Arena has been a big part of the success of this event for many years and we look forward to continuing that relationship in the years to come. Neptunus are new partners for us, and we were impressed with their vision and plan for a two-storey hospitality area that will have fantastic views over our practice courts. We believe that, from 2020, our ticket-holders and hospitality guests are going to love the experience of attending the Fever-Tree Championships more than ever.”

The Fever-Tree Championships is owned and organised by the LTA, the governing body of British tennis. Its 2019 edition will take place from June 17-23.

Image: LTA