New twist in Leeds-Sheffield Arena rivalry

BOSSES at Sheffield Arena gave a key partner permission to run the concert complex proposed for Leeds – despite their much-trumpeted opposition to the scheme.

Arena chiefs in the South Yorkshire city say it would be wrong for regional development agency Yorkshire Forward to invest public cash in the Leeds facility as it could damage their trade.

Now, though, it has emerged the South Yorkshire arena's owner, Sheffield International Venues (SIV), gave the green light for its operator, Live Nation, to sign up to the Leeds project.

SIV chief executive Steve Brailey wrote to Live Nation in October 2007 agreeing to amend the firm's contract so it could "manage an arena in Leeds".

The original contract is thought to have barred Live Nation from getting involved with another arena scheme within a geographical area that included Leeds.

In the event, the change of terms agreement proved academic, as Live Nation was beaten to the Leeds operator deal by music industry giant SMG.

But Mr Brailey's confidential letter was today still seized upon as a sign that Sheffield is overstating the likely impact of a Leeds arena.

One source at Leeds Civic Hall said: "If our venue is going to be so disastrous for them, then why approve the idea of Live Nation potentially coming on board?"

Mr Brailey today told the Yorkshire Evening Post the decision had been taken as part of a "damage limitation" strategy.

He said it was felt having the same operator in charge of both arenas would have less effect on Sheffield's business than if they were being run by two rival groups.

Yorkshire Forward wants to contribute 18m towards the cost of Leeds's city council-led project.

Its spending plan still needs Government approval, however, with a decision expected late next month.

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