AO Arena granted updated licence by Manchester City Council

Manchester’s AO Arena has been granted a renewed licence by Manchester City Council’s Licencing Authority following initial concerns surrounding counter-terrorism training for staff, supply of first aid and access to CCTV.

Arena operator SMG requested to update the licence earlier this year. The application concerned the arena’s premises licence and changes to its operations schedule, and set out how the facility would seek to prevent crime, disorder and public nuisance, as well as secure the safety of the public.

SMG said last week that it was “continuing to work with all parties” to confirm the terms of a renewed licence for AO Arena after police and council officials raised concerns over a number of issues.

The Manchester Evening News reported last week that, while Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police supported SMG’s efforts to change AO Arena’s licence in principle, they were opposed to the application, stating that it ‘lacked specific detail’ and was ‘not robust enough’ on issues such as counter-terrorism, staff training, CCTV, first aid and noise management.

The Council has now granted the licence and SMG has welcomed the decision.

“We are pleased that Manchester City Council’s Licencing Authority has granted the Arena’s licence, which the Arena proactively sought to be updated earlier this year,” an SMG spokesperson told TheStadiumBusiness.com.

“Since then, we have been in constructive dialogue with Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council to agree the proposed conditions as well as clarify specific aspects of our application, such as the proposed operational management plan.

“This plan sets out in detail our approach to counter-terrorism as well as our commitment to comply with the Protect Duty once this is published by the Government.

“We look forward to working with the GMP, MCC and our other partners as we continue to ensure safety is at the heart of all events held at the Arena.”

The approval marks the first changes to the previous licence that was granted in 2005, and since the 2017 terrorist attack which killed 22 people. In June, the ongoing independent public inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing criticised SMG and security provider Showsec for the measures put in place before the attack.

The attack took place on May 22, 2017 following an Ariana Grande concert at the venue, which is now known as the AO Arena under a naming-rights agreement. The first volume of the inquiry focused on the security measures in place at the arena and was released on June 17.

At the time of the attack, the arena was operated by SMG, which has since merged with AEG Facilities to form ASM Global. SMG contracted Showsec, which specialises in crowd control, to provide crowd management and event security for the Ariana Grande concert.

The licence application and objections were due to be considered at a hearing convened by the Council’s licensing subcommittee panel yesterday (Monday). The licence was ultimately approved without the need for a hearing after SMG provided the Council with the extra information it had requested.

SMG is also committed to supporting the Protect Duty, a proposed new law to enhance the protection of publicly accessible locations across the UK from terrorist attacks and ensure operational preparedness.

SMG has engaged in workshops and talks with the Association of Event Venues, the National Arenas Association, The Association of Security Consultants and representatives of the Home Office to support and consult on the proposed Protect Duty.

The legislation falls in-line with ‘Martyn’s Law’, a campaign for stricter security measures named after Martyn Hett, one of the victims of the 2017 attack.

Image: Ivanmuyalde12/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size