Eurovision in the UK: Where might it be held and how much could it cost?

·4-min read
Sam Ryder performs at Eurovision (Eurovision/PA)
Sam Ryder performs at Eurovision (Eurovision/PA)

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.

Following news from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) that it is in talks with the BBC for the UK to “potentially host” the 2023 event as this year’s runner-up, here is what you need to know about what this 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).

ABBA won the song contest in Brighton in 1974 (PA) (PA Archive)
ABBA won the song contest in Brighton in 1974 (PA) (PA Archive)

Which city could host the 2023 contest?

The OVO Hydro arena in Glasgow is rumoured to be the favourite spot to host the contest for the UK, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has thrown the country’s hat into the ring, saying her Government is “happy to discuss with the BBC”.

It is the largest entertainment venue in Scotland with a maximum capacity of 14,300 and it currently has a mostly clear schedule in May when the competition is typically held.

London’s O2 Arena is another strong contender as the largest indoor arena in the capital. The 20,000-person capacity venue has hosted some of the biggest stars in the world, including Adele, Queen + Adam Lambert, Billie Eilish, The Rolling Stones and the Brit Awards.

The OVO Wembley Arena could also be in contention as the second largest in London, with a capacity of 12,500.

A return to Brighton could also be a nice homage to when Brighton Dome hosted the event in 1974, with ABBA winning the contest after famously performing Waterloo.

Venues within major UK cities such as Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle could also be considered in line with the Government’s “levelling up” plan.

A spokesperson for Downing Street has said that if the competition was to be held in the UK, they would be “committed to ensuring it overwhelmingly reflects Ukraine’s rich culture, heritage and creativity, as well as building on the ongoing partnership between our two countries.”

OVO Hydro in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)
OVO Hydro in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Archive)

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?

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the 2022 contest (Eurovision 2022/PA) (PA Media)
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the 2022 contest (Eurovision 2022/PA) (PA Media)

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.