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Co-op Live boss quits amid further postponements

Featured image credit: Nick Flynn/Co-op Live

Co-op Live executive director and general manager Gary Roden has resigned just days after the Manchester arena’s official opening was delayed, with Rebecca Kane Burton named as his interim replacement and further event postponements being announced today (Friday).

On Monday, it was announced that the new 23,500-capacity arena would not open as originally scheduled on Tuesday due to issues relating to the venue’s power supply.

Comedian Peter Kay had been due to open the venue with back-to-back shows on consecutive days, but these performances were rescheduled for April 29-30. The arena had already issued an apology after it was forced to reduce capacity for last Saturday night’s test event featuring Rick Astley at short notice.

Co-op Live today announced that to ensure it can run all shows safely, the decision has been taken to reschedule the planned The Black Keys and Peter Kay shows. Co-op Live was tomorrow due to host a concert by US rock band The Black Keys. The arena was set to operate at a 10,000-capacity, with the event being used to “continue to test the resilience of the venue and its operations”.

Co-op Live said that both The Black Keys and Peter Kay have “graciously agreed” to reschedule their shows. The Black Keys will now perform on May 15, with Peter Kay’s dates moved to May 23-24.

All tickets will remain valid, with refunds available for those who can no longer attend. A statement read: “We deeply appreciate the impact this will have on excited fans, and sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that this change will undoubtedly cause.

“Rescheduling Peter Kay and The Black Keys will give us the extra time we need to continue testing enhanced emergency communications and measures thoroughly. This is vital to satisfy the rigorous set of guidelines and protocols that are necessary for a venue of this size to ensure that our fans, artists and staff have the safest experience possible.”

Co-op Live said it still intends to welcome fans to shows featuring Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (May 1) and Olivia Rodrigo (May 3-4). Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO of venue operator Oak View Group (OVG), added: “It’s always been very important to me that we only open Co-op Live when it is safe and appropriate to do so, and rescheduling The Black Keys and Peter Kay gives the dedicated team the time and space needed to finalise systems and measures.

“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to every fan that has been impacted by this decision and others this week, and join the full team in thanking them for their continued patience and support as we prepare to open our doors.”

Kane Burton brings industry experience

The latest news continues what has been an inauspicious start to life as Manchester’s second major arena, alongside ASM Global’s AO Arena. Roden had come under fire for recent comments about grassroots music venues. He suggested in an interview with the BBC that some smaller venues are “poorly run”. He also said that a proposed £1 (€1.16/$1.25) ticket levy to preserve the future of such facilities was “too simplistic”.

A statement from the arena said it does not “share the sentiment” expressed by Roden and that “Co-op Live remains committed to grassroots music in Manchester and beyond”.

“Gary Roden has decided to resign,” a Co-op Live spokesperson added, as reported by the BBC. “We’d like to thank Gary for his help bringing the UK’s newest arena to live entertainment fans and wish him the best for the future.

“Rebecca Kane Burton has been named interim general manager, effective today (Thursday). Rebecca is a seasoned veteran of venue management and live entertainment in the UK.”

Kane Burton was most recently the CEO of catering group Sodexo Live! in the UK, a role she held from June 2022 to December 2023. Her experience in the venues industry also includes The O2 in London, where she was vice-president and general manager from March 2012 to September 2016.

After leaving The O2, Kane Burton was CEO of LW Theatres for five years through to September 2021.

Co-op Live is a joint venture between OVG and City Football Group, the parent company of Manchester City. It forms part of Etihad Campus, which houses the Premier League football club’s Etihad Stadium.

Jessica Koravos, president of international at US-based venue operator OVG, yesterday said that Roden had “decided to resign”. She added in a separate statement, reported by The Telegraph: “Neither Co-op Live nor Oak View Group share the sentiment expressed by former Co-op Live general manager Gary Roden regarding the grassroots industry.

“As OVG chairman and CEO Tim Leiweke has repeatedly stated, Co-op Live remains committed to grassroots music in Manchester and beyond, including teaming up with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham on the Artist of the Month campaign, and as a founding partner of (festival) Beyond The Music.

“Co-op Live also donates over £1m a year to the Co-op Foundation to support communities and empower young people to take social action through its new Young Gamechangers fund.”

Co-op Live has been built at a cost of £365m. The venue had been due to stage its first event in 2023, but last June the opening date was pushed back to April 2024.

On Wednesday, Co-op Live secured an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event as its first sporting attraction.

With UFC president and CEO, Dana White, stating earlier this month that the English city would host an event, the mixed martial arts promotion confirmed that Co-op Live will be the destination for its first European fight card of 2024, UFC 304, on July 27.

Additional reporting by Owen Lloyd