The performing arts and professional sports industries are often perceived as polar opposites when it comes to entertainment, but when the coronavirus forced a shutdown of large gatherings they both found themselves in a similar situation – unable to stage live events in front of ticket-buying crowds, leaving them without essential revenue.

And so, putting rivalries aside, some of Australia’s leading live entertainment and sports businesses have united to form the Live Entertainment Industry Forum (LEIF), with the mission of safely restarting an estimated $150 billion industry, and returning around 175,000 people to work.

LEIF has been formed by some of Australia’s biggest promoters, venue managers and peak bodies from the sports and live entertainment sectors. The executive committee has appointed former Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland as Chair to lead its development strategy.

The executive committee includes the bosses of entertainment promoters TEG, Live Nation, Frontier Touring, Chugg Entertainment, AEG Presents, WME and the Michael Cassel Group; venues including Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Marvel Stadium, Melbourne Olympic Parks, Adelaide Oval, and ASM Global; and industry bodies including Venues West, Venues Live, Live Performance Australia, Venue Management Association and the Australian Festivals Association.

LEIF will work to produce a comprehensive, flexible, COVIDSafe strategy to reactivate events with live audiences as restrictions are eased from July. This will include industry-wide measures regarding cleaning and sanitisation, crowd management, physical distancing, health monitoring and contact tracing.

The Forum will work in conjunction with governments in all states and territories, especially their Chief Medical and Health officers, as well as sporting bodies, venues and audiences to build confidence in the industry’s preparedness to operate safely, flexibly and sustainably. It will also explore how both sectors can be supported by governments during their gradual return.

James Sutherland has been appointed to lead the Live Entertainment Industry Forum

“This pandemic has brought our industry to a complete standstill. The thousands of cancelled sporting events, concerts, festivals, theatre, family and comedy shows, and all the associated revenues related to them, can never be replaced,” said Sutherland, who led Cricket Australia from 2001 to 2018.

“Our industry was the first to close during COVID-19 and it will be one of the last to fully re-open. The cultural, creative and sports industries supports the livelihoods of around 175,000 Australians, many of whom are casual or part time. The industry also contributes an estimated $150 billion to the Australian economy. Our live events have a huge economic flow on effect: we support jobs in airlines and other transport companies, hotels, pubs, restaurants and retail establishments of all sizes all over Australia.”

“We need a clear roadmap to get our industry back to work, while playing a bigger role in the post COVID-19 economic recovery of our nation.”

Geoff Jones, CEO of TEG, said: “Our industry has to work together at this challenging time. We must put aside our natural competitive instincts so we can all bring large-scale live events back to the Australian people safely.”

“Live entertainment and sport at scale is the beating heart of Australian culture. From footy Grand Finals to outdoor festivals and from The Ashes series to stadium concerts like FIRE FIGHT AUSTRALIA, the live experience unites us with our fellow Australians and lifts spirits as no other experience can. We are all committed to bringing back live in a COVIDSafe manner.”

Roger Field, CEO of Live Nation Australasia said: “Live events and mass gatherings are not solely for recreational purposes – they play a crucial part in the fabric of Australian life. Just as sport plays an important role in promoting healthy behaviours, so too do music and the performing arts. The positive impact culture brings to society is not only seen both psychologically and in social well-being, but in the fact that the live events industry contributes hundreds of thousands of jobs, which flows on and effects the whole economy. I am proud that we stand united to work together to make the return to events a reality and for the people of Australia to enjoy the power of live once again.”

More information about the Live Entertainment Industry Forum