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Council accused of ‘unfair’ handling of new arena plan

24 July 2019

The owner of Manchester Arena (cap. 21,000), Nick Leslau, has joined its operator SMG Europe (see Audience issue 233) in condemning the city council’s handling of the application process for a proposed new a 20,000-capacity arena close to the 63,000-capacity Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City Football Club (MCFC).

Leslau and  SMG Europe executive vice-president John Sharkey are concerned that the city is unable to sustain two major arenas and that the council-orchestrated consultation process for a new arena has been insufficient.

They also question the role of Sir Howard Bernstein, according to the Sunday Times. The council’s former chief executive, Bernstein sits on the board of Eastlands Strategic Development Company, which is jointly run by the council and the Abu Dhabi royal family, which owns MCFC.

“The competition has been given the green light on a nod and wink by a cabal of Manchester [council] executives and former executives to a point where they are shunning the normal consulting process,” says an unnamed Sunday Times source. “It’s simply not fair.”

Leslau acquired Manchester Arena for £103 million last year. SMG has a 26-year lease on the venue.

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