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Co-op wants “full explanation” over latest Co-op Live setback

Featured image credit: Nick Flynn/Co-op Live

The Co-operative Group is set for crunch talks with Co-op Live’s operator, Oak View Group, after expressing its “shock” at the disruption caused by the £365m venue’s latest setback.

Oak View Group’s Manchester arena last night cancelled A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s show over safety concerns just minutes before the doors were due to open for its opening night. It was the venue’s third attempt at an official opening after shows featuring Peter Kay and The Black Keys were pulled last week.

Co-op Live has now also postponed this weekend’s Olivia Rodrigo gigs, but as things stand Take That and Keane concerts next week are still scheduled.

In a statement issued to TheStadiumBusiness, the Co-op retail group said it empathised with fans who have been impacted by a string of delays, and expressed its concerns about the venue in no uncertain terms. It is believed that Co-op paid up to £100m for the naming rights to the venue when a 15-year deal was signed in 2020.

A Co-op Group spokesperson said: “We will be seeking a full explanation from Oak View Group (OVG), who are responsible for the building, to the obvious questions arising from this, together with a clear plan from the Co-op Live venue management team at OVG for opening the venue and postponed and future events.”

Co-op shares fans’ “disappointment and frustration”

In seeking assurances from the operator about the venue’s future, Co-op must have concerns that its high-profile and costly link to the venue is negatively impacting its own brand. While Co-op did not comment on the future of the naming rights deal, it is commonplace for such arrangements to include termination clauses related to reputational damage.

Co-op added: “As the naming rights sponsor for Co-op Live, we are shocked at the incident which has led to the late cancellation of [Thursday’s] show at the arena. We are relieved that no-one has been injured, but we share the disappointment and frustration of ticket holders, many of whom are Co-op members, with the continuing delay to the opening of Co-op Live and the disruption that this is causing to everyone who has been looking forward to attending events.

“Safety is of course the No.1 priority and it is critical that Co-op members and other ticket holders can enjoy events in a venue with the very highest levels of security and safety measures in place. We are very grateful for Manchester City Council’s and the emergency services’ continued engagement with OVG to ensure that Co-op Live opens as soon as possible.”

Leiweke again apologises to fans

Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO of Oak View Group, also issued an apology to fans after the latest postponement. The latest delay comes after last week’s postponements and the ensuing resignation of the venue’s executive director.

He said: “The safety and security of all visiting and working on Co-op Live is our utmost priority, and we could not and will not run any event until it is absolutely safe to do so. Today was a very unexpected situation but without a doubt the right decision. I deeply apologise for the impact that this has had on ticket holders and fans.”

Latest delay caused by HVAC system deficiency

Thursday’s incident came about during soundcheck when a component of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, used to direct air, separated from the ductwork. The gig was postponed as the venue operator was not able to verify that all similar nozzles were free of such defects.

The installer, contractor and third-party inspector will now test each nozzle to confirm they are free of defects before the venue can open.

Oak View Group added: “We appreciate the inconvenience this will cause for many, and are deeply sorry for all those impacted.

“We understand the need to reassure fans over future shows. We are working with artist management and promoters to limit the impact on the opening season schedule. Where necessary, we will identify alternate dates, and will continually reassess to provide fans with sufficient notice regarding imminent shows.”

The Olivia Rodrigo concerts due to be held on Friday and Saturday have now been postponed. Keane are due to play on Sunday night with Take That then to play five nights from Tuesday.

The venue had been due to stage its first event in 2023, but last June the opening date was pushed back to April 2024.