The Great Entertainers

The NEC Group contributes over £2 billion-a-year to Birmingham’s economy – and nearly 30,000 jobs. And it’s only going to get bigger…

If you’ve been to a concert, visited an exhibition, attended a business conference, dined at a country club, corporate event or sports match, or even just ordered show tickets, the chances are you’ve come into contact with the NEC Group. This Birmingham powerhouse of a business deals with more than four million people every year – and when you realise that the population of Birmingham is just over 1.1 million, and the West Midlands as a whole 5.6 million, that’s a pretty impressive number. And here’s another couple of equally jaw-dropping figures… the group delivers a £2 billion annual shot in the arm to the regional economy, while supporting getting on for 30,000 jobs in the region. Unsurprisingly, all this adds up to make the NEC Group not only big news here at home, but also a major player in the venue and events market in Europe.


This month all the attention is on the lead-up to the opening of the £26 million revamped NIA, now rechristened the Barclaycard Arena thanks to a naming rights deal with the credit card company. NEC chief executive Paul Thandi said: “The arena has a rich 21-year history in Birmingham, welcoming world-renowned singers, athletes, comedians and performers who all help to shine a light on what our city has to offer. The renaming is another historic moment and allows us to continue to be a world class venue leading in providing the ultimate live experience.” For months, Brummies have been watching the new arena take shape as it evolves from a symbol of 90s monolithic concrete into a gleaming copper and glass clad structure that sits proudly as a modern landmark for the city. The new venue opens next month – and as befits a world class centre, organisers have come up with a world class act to kick things off in the shape of Michael Bublé. The NEC is no stranger to big stars of course – the LG Arena, which itself had a £29 million refit four years ago, attracts the biggest acts in the world of music such as Rihanna, Elton John and Beyoncé. While the NEC halls themselves – the UK’s largest exhibition facility – host some of the biggest exhibitions in the country, including the likes of Crufts and Grand Designs Live. The NEC Group also has a huge presence in selling you the tickets to these events via its Ticket Factory arm which handles 2.1 million sales a year. It’s not only the private customer who passes through the group’s companies. The corporate business is a major sector which is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. The ICC in the city centre is one of Europe’s top conference venues with more than 250,000 delegates attending 300 events every year.


Meanwhile, catering offshoot Amadeus serves more than 3.5 million covers with over 70 chefs providing award-winning food at events such as the Scottish Open Golf Championship, and AEGON Tennis Tournament at Edgbaston. And next year will see the group’s biggest project, the £150 million Resorts World integrated leisure and entertainment complex, open next door to the NEC featuring a new hotel, bars, restaurants, shopping centre and casino. “This will be incredibly exciting for the city, its economy and its people,” said Guy Dunstan, the general manager of NEC Arenas. “It will be great for visitors and artists alike and will offer something unique that other venues in the UK can’t.” Guy, who is also chairman of the National Arenas Association which represents the interests of all UK venues, is in no doubt about Birmingham’s position in the UK entertainment and leisure scene. “Birmingham has become the events destination of this country,” he said. “And this is only going to grow and get stronger as we enter this even more exciting phase of development for the city.”


  • The NEC – one the UK’s top exhibition venues
  • The ICC – leading business and conference centre
  • The LG Arena – home of the big music gigs
  • The Barclaycard Arena – the reincarnated NIA
  • Amadeus – UK’s fastest growing caterers
  • The Ticket Factory – top UK ticketing agents
  • Resorts World – new £150m leisure complex