Europe's Leading Venue Operator Victim of 'Theft,' Possible Embezzlement Scheme

Paul Faith/PA
The Odyssey Arena in Belfast operated by SMG Europe.

The police investigation centers around a "theft of assets."

A police investigation is underway into allegations that SMG Europe, the largest operator of sports and entertainment venues in the United Kingdom and Europe, has been the victim of fraud.

The precise nature of the alleged crime has not been revealed, although Billboard understands that it was SMG Europe -- which is a wholly owned subsidiary of SMG whose headquarters are based in Manchester, England -- who initially alerted police about suspected wrong doing and that the fraud allegations center on the potential embezzlement of SMG assets by an employee or employees.   

In a statement to Billboard, a spokesperson for SMG confirmed that "SMG’s internal controls identified an irregularity that SMG reported to Greater Manchester Police. SMG’s report to the police involved a suspected theft of assets that belonged to SMG and to no one else. SMG has been fully cooperating with the ensuing official investigation."

Greater Manchester Police confirmed that an investigation has been launched and that enquiries are ongoing. No arrests have been made, say authorities.

SMG Europe operates, manages and consults for 12 facilities across the U.K. and Europe, including the 13,500-capacity First Direct Arena in Leeds, Newcastle’s 12,000-capacity Metro Radio Arena, the 11,000-capacity Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Poland’s 42,000-capacity Wroclaw Stadium.  

The company’s flagship U.K. venue, Manchester Arena -- formerly known as the Phones 4u Arena, Manchester -- has a total capacity of 21,000, which scales down to around 16,000 for music concerts. According to Billboard Boxscore data, the venue was the world’s third busiest arena in 2014, behind London’s O2 arena and New York’s Madison Square Garden, welcoming over 1 million attendees across 122 events (total gross $70,888,011).

In the first quarter of 2015, almost 414,000 tickets were sold to events at Manchester Arena, according to SMG Europe – the venue’s highest ticket sales over a three month period in its 20 year history.