Rival promoters and venues are joining forces to restart the live events industry and build confidence in government and fans about safely returning to sport, concerts, festivals and theatre. Picture: Patrick Gee
Rival promoters and venues are joining forces to restart the live events industry and build confidence in government and fans about safely returning to sport, concerts, festivals and theatre. Picture: Patrick Gee

Ex-Cricket Australia boss to get crowds back to live events

Former Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland will spearhead a collective of rival promoters and venues to build confidence in government and fans about getting crowds back to live events "sooner than later".

Sutherland will chair the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF) to develop industry-wide measures including cleaning and sanitisation, crowd management, physical distancing plans, health monitoring and contact tracing for concerts, festivals, theatre and sports.

The members of LEIF - which include concert promoters TEG, Live Nation, Frontier Touring and Chugg Entertainment and the operators of the MCG, SCG, Adelaide Oval and major arenas - want to assure the Federal and State Governments they can operate safely when mass gatherings are given the green light.

The Fire Fight Australia benefit bash in front of 75,000 fans was one of the last big events before COVID-19 hit. Picture: Richard Dobson
The Fire Fight Australia benefit bash in front of 75,000 fans was one of the last big events before COVID-19 hit. Picture: Richard Dobson

It's not just the pleasure of fans experiencing football or gigs again at stake; about 175,000 jobs in the live events sector were affected by the pandemic shutdowns.

Sutherland said sports events would be the natural test case for their COVIDSafe plans because they could kick off with smaller crowds in July to comply with social distancing requirements without suffering another big financial hit due to their income from broadcast rights.

The financial viability of a concert or theatre production hangs on ticket sales and COVIDSafe social distancing protocols rule out a full house for the foreseeable future.

"We are optimistic we are going to see crowds come back gradually," he said.

"I feel sport will open the way because of the nature of the business model and the income from media rights and because sports tend to be played in big, open-air stadiums."

Concerts and festivals face the added challenge of border restrictions prohibiting international artists entering the country.

LEIF marks the typically competitive industry players working together to restart a multi-billion industry which was one of the first to be decimated by the pandemic shutdowns and will be one of the last to reopen.

The return of crowds to football matches will be gradual and a testing ground for concerts. Picture: Jason Edwards
The return of crowds to football matches will be gradual and a testing ground for concerts. Picture: Jason Edwards

TEG CEO Geoff Jones, one of the promoters behind the successful Fire Fight Australia bushfire benefit in February, wrangled the country's live events bosses to work together to "bring fans back and jobs back, safely."

The powerful forum is determined to give the Federal and State Governments confidence they will mitigate any threat of a second wave of COVID-19 clusters erupting at a football match or concert.

Australian Festival Association CEO Julia Robinson, who has been working with the NSW Government via the Music Festival Roundtable for the past six months, said the LEIF plans would have to be flexible and adaptable to the evolving post COVID-19 world.

Festivals may have to wait a while longer before they can kick off again. Picture: Patrick Gee
Festivals may have to wait a while longer before they can kick off again. Picture: Patrick Gee

And that means putting a date on the return of festivals in Australia remains difficult even as some promoters have pencilled in September for a gradual restart of gigs.

"I don't think we can put a time frame on it; we can't just switch on the lights like a venue or pub can," Robinson said.

"We have to work out what's realistic, watching the environment and making sure we are quick to react to the changes, and what we can implement as (crowd) scales are introduced.

"It's really hard to know what that might look like but I think the industry is very hopeful, and from the sounds of it, so are the patrons."

Live Nation Australasia CEO Roger Field said the return of live events would be beneficial for the country's psychological wellbeing after months of isolation but also vital for Australia's economic recovery with its flow-on effects to tourism, transport and hospitality.

"Just as sport plays an important role in promoting healthy behaviours, so too do music and the performing arts," he said.

"The positive impact culture brings to society is not only seen both psychologically and in social wellbeing, but in the fact that the live events industry contributes hundreds of thousands of jobs, which flows on and effects the whole economy."

Originally published as Former Cricket Australia boss to get crowds back to live events



Bullying, break-up blamed for seeking ‘solace’ in child porn

Premium Content Bullying, break-up blamed for seeking ‘solace’ in child porn

An Ipswich court has heard a man busted for child pornography knew exactly why the...

Jack’s ‘bonkers’ century caps incredible Hornets weekend

Premium Content Jack’s ‘bonkers’ century caps incredible Hornets weekend

Wood’s eight sixes and nine fours provide stunning counter-attack to secure...

Plans submitted for new public hospital

Premium Content Plans submitted for new public hospital

The wheels are in motion for a public hospital, with 1800 jobs expected to be...