On August 12th, the BBC announced the shortlist of seven cities all vying to host the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023. The announcement was made on Zoe Ball’s breakfast show on BBC Radio 2.
The UK will be hosting the contest in May 2023 after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) decided that it was unsafe to hold the event in Ukraine, which won the contest in 2022. As runner-up the UK was given the opportunity to host, on the understanding that the show will reflect Ukraine’s win. This year’s British entrant Sam Ryder has said that it should be Ukraine’s party, which the UK is merely hosting for them.
The BBC invited interested cities to bid in a two-stage process. At least 20 put in expressions of interest before it was whittled down. The BBC and the EBU are now working through the shortlist to decide which gets to host Eurovision 2023. An announcement will be made early in the autumn, along with the confirmed dates for the contest.
The broadcaster has confirmed the criteria they’ll be using to make the final decision. They’ll look at the space and facilities the city has; what commitment the region has to supporting the event, including a financial contribution; how they will showcase local, regional and Ukrainian culture and music during the event; plus the BBC’s own strategic priorities as a public service broadcaster providing value to all audiences and supporting the creative economy across the UK. The city with the highest score will get to host the contest.
So who’s on the shortlist (odds at time of writing)?
[See also: When Eurovision came to Liverpool]
Odds: 11/4 favourite
The early favourite to host the contest remains the front-runner – and it’s easy to see why. It has an exhibition centre and the OVO Hydro arena – Scotland’s largest arena with a capacity of up to 14,000 – all situated next to each other in the city’s Scottish Event Campus. This makes building a press and delegation centre near the prospective venue incredibly easy – and the arena itself already has Eurovision pedigree after it appeared in the 2021 Netflix movie, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, as the outside of the Eurovision stadium (although they did claim it was in Edinburgh).
Having hosted Cop26, the city has shown it can handle international events – and the airports have great connections with other European countries. And with more than 15,000 hotel rooms, it’s comfortably equipped to accommodate the many Eurofans who would descend on the contest next May.
Celine Dion fans may be disappointed if Glasgow does win out, though – her gigs on the 2-3 April may be at risk of cancellation to give the venue enough time to get the Eurovision stage ready.
Considering the BBC moved its Eurovision production base to Salford last year, a lot of fans think this means neighbouring Manchester has a very strong chance of hosting the contest. The AO Arena has can hold 21,000 fans and the city is used to hosting national and international events, including the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the annual conferences of the UK’s main political parties. It is also home to two of the biggest football teams in the world.
Manchester is well connected with good public transport and easy access to international airports across the north-west, including Manchester Airport, the UK’s busiest airport outside of London. It’s also the city that had the biggest Ukrainian population outside London before Russia’s invasion.
But the AO Arena is undergoing a three-year renovation that may be bad timing for hosting a Eurovision. The large size may also work against it, with Eurovision opting for slightly smaller arenas in recent years.
And again, Celine Dion’s tour dates, on 5-6 April, could cause headaches.
The First Direct venue can hold more than 13,000 and its slightly unusual amphitheatre layout may make this a good set-up for a TV event – it’s similar to Tel Aviv’s Expo arena, which held the contest in 2019 and was used for the inside of “Edinburgh”’s OVO Hydro in that Eurovision feature film. Leeds has become a bit of a dark horse among the host cities, with their councillors and regional mayor Tracy Brabin strongly supporting the effort.
In its bid the city has highlighted its connections to Ukraine as well as taking in Ukrainian refugees, and hopes this will be a selling point for what will be a very unique contest in 2023.
Leeds is the UK’s City of Culture in 2023, so hosting the world’s largest music show would be a great way to celebrate. It is well connected for international and national travel, with a big airport and well-used train station – but public transport within the city is lacking. The city currently has around 6,800 hotel rooms – well above the 2,000 needed.
Liverpool’s bid is shaping up to be the surprise challenger to early favourite Glasgow.
The Mersey city has a world-famous musical heritage as well as the 11,000 capacity M&S Bank arena that hosted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year in 2017. Similar to Glasgow, it has a self-contained event centre on the dock that would make for easy access for press and delegations.
It has an international airport and more than 6,500 hotel rooms. With Manchester’s AO Arena under renovation, Liverpool could actually offer the north-west a more straightforward venue – not that that will help the famous rivalry between the two cities.
Liverpool does have the problem of a number of gigs booked into the arena in April – Elton John being the biggest name that might have to move his already much delayed “farewell” tour.
The city will want to highlight how it has taken in more than 300 Ukrainian refugees since Russia’s invasion, according to the latest Home Office figures.
Fresh from hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham has shown it knows how to stage a massive international event, but as the most recent British Eurovision hosts (in 1998) some might wonder if it isn’t time for someone else to have a go.
Still, it has two great arenas, Resorts World and Utilita, which both hold around 15,000 people – an international airport and great rail connections to the rest of the country as well as plenty of hotel room – so expect the city to be a strong contender.
Newcastle announced a bid just before the deadline this week, putting forward the 11,000-capacity Utilita arena. While a much smaller city than the other bidders it is still well connected both with an international airport and train links with the rest of the UK. It also benefits from a good number of hotel rooms and good local public transport.
In its bid, the city highlighted its status as a city of sanctuary – where many refugees go to live – as well as its experience hosting international sporting events.
Sheffield Arena’s 13,600-capacity offer is the outside bet to play host to Europe’s Eurovision fans in 2023. With an international airport in Doncaster and a good public transport network, as well as links to Manchester, Leeds and London it’s infrastructure is good – though, along with Newcastle, it is one of the smaller cities bidding to host the contest.
The city said it was coming together with its neighbours in South Yorkshire to broaden the bid to a wider area, which could help them in the final decision-making.