Leeds to bid to host Eurovision Song Contest 2023 at the First Direct Arena in honour of Ukraine

Leeds will be bidding to host Eurovision in 2023, it has been announced.

By Abbey Maclure
Friday, 17th June 2022, 2:41 pm

Leeds City Council, together with the operators of the First Direct Arena in Leeds, have been in touch with the Government and the BBC to discuss the plans.

The organiser of the Eurovision Song Contest has announced that next year’s contest cannot be held in Ukraine due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is in talks with the BBC for the UK to “potentially host” the 2023 event as this year’s runner-up.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 winners Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine (Photo: Eurovision 2022)

The leader of Leeds City Council, James Lewis, and the council's executive member for economy and culture, Jonathan Pryor, said the competition "could not come at a better time."

Eurovision will be held in May - midway through the Leeds 2023 year of culture.

In a joint statement, Coun Lewis and Coun Pryor said: "“It goes without saying that Leeds will be bidding to host Eurovision in 2023.

"Together with ASM Global, the operators of the first direct arena in Leeds, we have already been in touch with both the Government and the BBC to discuss our plans.

Leeds will bid to host the Eurovision Song Contest at the First Direct Arena

"Leeds has already proved that it has the capability and capacity to host major international events and ASM Global successfully hosted Eurovision in the Avicii Arena, Stockholm Sweden in 2016.

"Given that we will be mid-way through the Leeds 2023 year of culture, it could not come at a better time.

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"We are extremely disappointed that Ukraine will be unable to host in 2023, but it would be an honour to host on behalf of them, especially given that West Yorkshire is home to a large number of Ukrainians.

"If we are successful with our bid, we will be looking to get the local Ukrainian community involved with our plans as much as possible."

Here is what you need to know about what hosting Eurovision might entail:

Has the UK hosted before?

If the UK does host the contest in 2023, it would be the ninth time it has taken place in the UK – more than any other country.

The UK has hosted the contest in London four times (1960, 1963, 1968 and 1977), and once in Edinburgh (1972), Brighton (1974), Harrogate (1982) and Birmingham (1998).

How much would hosting it cost?

Hosting Eurovision can be expensive.

Azerbaijan spent a reported £48 million on hosting the event in 2012 and Hungary withdrew from simply competing in the 2010 contest in part due to the global financial crisis.

It is not clear whether the BBC would have to pay for the contest from its current licence fee allocation or would be given further money.

The UK already spends more on Eurovision than most participants.

It is part of the so-called big five alongside France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who each get a free pass through to the grand final because of their financial contributions.

Could Ukraine host in 2024?

The decision not to host the contest in Ukraine in 2023 could pose an issue for the EBU as it is traditional for the winning country to host it the following year.

If the UK were to hold the event next year, it could put the 2023 winners in a difficult situation over whether they get the opportunity to host in 2024 or forfeit to allow Ukraine their turn.

As the invasion of Russia remains ongoing it is uncertain what the situation may be in Ukraine in years to come.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously vowed to one day host the Eurovision Song Contest in the embattled city of Mariupol.

Ukraine has hosted the contest twice in its capital Kyiv, once at the Palace of Sports in 2005 and later at the International Exhibition Centre in 2017.

Will the UK hosting it cause friction with Spain?

Spain could argue they were the true runners-up at the 2022 contest, and therefore first in line to host next year.

The UK’s second place standing was thrown into doubt after the grand final when it emerged organisers had replaced six countries’ jury results with aggregate scores after noting “irregular voting patterns”.

Azerbaijan, Georgia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and San Marino had their results substituted by the EBU.

Some of those countries have since claimed second place would have instead gone to Spain’s SloMo performed by Chanel.