WWE heads to Co-op Live

Images: Rob Ridley & Barnsley FC

Co-op Live has secured its latest major sports event, with US wrestling organisation WWE confirming it will head to the new Manchester arena later this year.

WWE has today (Friday) detailed a series of live events in the UK and Ireland throughout October and November, under the WWE Live banner. The dates and venues are as follows:

October 13 – Utilita Arena in Cardiff.

October 14 – M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

October 15 – Utilita Arena in Newcastle.

October 16 – Co-op Live in Manchester.

November 3 – 3Arena in Dublin.

November 4 – The O2 in London.

November 5 – Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.

November 6 – Utilita Arena in Sheffield.

Co-op Live officially opened its doors on May 14, with Tim Leiweke, chairman and CEO of Oak View Group (OVG), stating that its price tag had reached close to £450m (€535.1m/$572.7m).

Following the delays and postponements that blighted the 23,500-capacity arena, it was a local band that commenced proceedings, with Elbow, who hail from the Greater Manchester town of Bury, playing in front of a crowd of around 12,000. This was then followed by a gig from The Black Keys.

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.

In April, Co-op Live secured an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event as its first sporting attraction. With UFC president and CEO, Dana White, stating earlier 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.

WWE’s arrival comes with the wrestling organisation and the UFC now operating under the same parent company, TKO Group Holdings. TKO last month integrated the two properties’ live events teams into one unit.

TKO said the integration would create one of the strongest live events portfolios in sports and entertainment. The integrated unit has been named the TKO Live Events Strategy Team. It is hoped the company will drive revenue growth strategies across key areas, including live event development and scheduling, tourism incentive programmes, ticketing, and fan experiences.

Boxxer continues stadium events push

In other event news, Oakwell, home of English League One football club Barnsley, is set to host its first major boxing card since the 1940s.

Zak Chelli will defend his British and Commonwealth Super Middleweight titles against his unbeaten mandatory challenger Callum Simpson, who hails from the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley, on August 3.

The fight will be staged by Boxxer, with the announcement marking another push by the boxing promotional company into staging stadium events. Professional boxing is set to return to the home of Premier League club Crystal Palace tomorrow (Saturday), following April’s news that Selhurst Park will host a world title showdown as the first major event in its centenary celebrations.

Leading the billing, Palace supporter Richard Riakporhe will attempt to claim the WBO World Cruiserweight Championship title of Chris Billam-Smith. Billam-Smith won his WBO title at the Vitality Stadium in May 2023, and will be defending it for the second time.

Last year’s event at the home of Palace’s fellow Premier League club AFC Bournemouth represented Boxxer’s first UK stadium show. A strictly limited 7,000 seating capacity in Oakwell’s East Stand has been set for Barnsley’s event.

Barnsley F.C. chief executive, Jon Flatman, said: “Barnsley FC are proud to host Callum Simpson and fulfil his lifelong ambition to fight at Oakwell. The stadium has to always be at the centre of what the community wants and needs. We know the people in this town want to see Callum claim the British title at this iconic venue.

“We believe the ticket prices represent good value for money for eight hours entertainment and we are excited to see the people of Barnsley turn out in force. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the council, the safety authorities and our board for their support throughout the process of making this fight a possibility.

“Callum has the full support of the club behind him and we know this fight will put the town, the club and the people of Barnsley firmly on the map.”