Where will Eurovision 2023 be held?

Patrick Flynn

4 August 2022

Since the EBU announced that the UK would host Eurovision 2023, speculation on the host city has gone into overdrive. Is it a total free-for-all or can past selections tell us anything about where in the UK we might be headed next May?

This will come as news to some (including a few of the councils bidding to host), but there are strict criteria when it comes to hosting Eurovision which will weed out some contenders very early.

  • The contest must be held in an indoor arena (i.e. one with a roof) with capacity for at least 10,000 spectators. There is some leeway on this criteria — Expo Tel Aviv only held 9,000 people in 2019 but was still selected in the absence of better options.
  • The venue must be within a 90-minute drive of an international airport. Looking at recent hosts, however, 50 minutes was the highest I could find on Google Maps.
  • The city must have ample hotel accommodation for journalists, contestants and delegates (figures vary, but 2,500 rooms is a ballpark estimate).

On top of these essentials, there are also a few desirable criteria which can strengthen a hosting bid.

  • Despite the 10,000 threshold, 9 of the last 12 venues had a capacity larger than 15,000 (the sweet spot seems to be in the 15,000–20,000 range).
  • Towns and cities with more residents are historically more likely to be selected. While population isn’t in and of itself a driving factor, it can probably function as a proxy for the strength of local transport links and attractions/cafés/restaurants for visitors (alongside hotel capacity, of course).
  • A nice-looking venue also helps. When it comes to potentially broadcasting exterior shots of the arena during the contest, the host country will hope to avoid an eyesore if there are prettier alternatives. The Baku Crystal Hall and Stockholm’s Globe Arena are both great examples of striking pieces of architecture that looked good on camera.

There are 17 cities in contention on Smarkets, six of which can be ruled out immediately given the above criteria. Brighton, Sunderland and Wolverhampton do not have any suitable venues and those in Bristol and Edinburgh will not be constructed in time for the contest. Furthermore, Cardiff ruled out a potential bid yesterday.

Of the remaining 11 contenders, here are my power rankings, from least to most likely:


11. Nottingham

Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena is an indistinct building in the middle of a city centre — not exactly up there with the show-stopping venues we have seen in the past. Though it’s free in May 2023, the arena only holds 10,000 people, and Nottingham contains the fewest hotels of the 11 contenders. In the city’s favour, though, is its solid public transport network.

Prospects: Very unlikely


10. Belfast

Belfast’s SSE Arena narrowly reaches the capacity criteria with room for just shy of 11,000 spectators and would require a very tight turnaround to fit the contest and rehearsals into its current schedule (and that’s without accounting for stage construction).

Looking at TripAdvisor, Belfast also has surprisingly few hotels for a capital city, so accommodating thousands of journalists, delegates and contestants for two weeks may be a struggle.

A trip to Northern Ireland is not totally out of the picture, but there will be much stronger bids out there.

Prospects: Pretty unlikely


9. Sheffield

I can’t imagine Sheffield Arena is the type of structure the BBC will want to showcase around the world as the pinnacle of British architecture — it’s a drab building and would not be suited to exterior shots. In addition, current events would need to be rescheduled to fit Eurovision into the venue’s calendar.

Like the previous two contenders, it may also be a stretch to accommodate people within Sheffield’s current hotel roster.

Prospects: Pretty unlikely


8. Manchester

This will come as a surprise to many given that Manchester is the second-favourite in our market. While the city fits all the criteria and the BBC recently relocated more jobs to the area, a potential bid for the north-west city faces a massive stumbling block: Manchester Arena is currently undergoing a major renovation which is set to take three years to complete. Surely the BBC is not going to select a venue that’s in the middle of restoration?

Prospects: Unlikely


7. Newcastle

While Newcastle meets all the criteria, it only scrapes by on the major ones and a potential bid would not have any standout component. The Utilita Arena is unexceptional from the outside and only stands at 11,000 capacity. There will be a massive amount of interest in the 2023 contest, so I suspect the BBC will end up going for somewhere a bit bigger.

Prospects: Unlikely


6. Liverpool

This is where we start getting into the serious contenders. The M&S Bank Arena holds a similar number of spectators to Newcastle’s venue of choice, but Liverpool’s case is stronger on a number of fronts given the venue’s more TV-friendly appearance and the city’s larger hotel inventory.

Still, the arena’s relatively low capacity and the fact some rescheduling would be required holds Liverpool back from cracking the top five.

Prospects: In with a shout


5. London

London has two potential venues in the OVO Arena Wembley and the O2 Arena; the latter seems more likely given its 20,000 capacity and proximity to London City Airport.

Despite the unrivalled strength of a potential London bid, there has understandably been a lot of debate in both UK politics and the BBC about ‘levelling up’, or redistributing jobs and opportunities away from the capital, where much of the UK economy is concentrated. For that reason, I think it’s unlikely the BBC will pick London as its first option, but the O2 (with some rescheduling) would make a solid back-up if the first choice falls through.

Prospects: Solid backup option


4. Aberdeen

Aberdeen is the dark horse in this process. The city fits all the essential and most of the desirable criteria, with a gorgeous, ready-made venue in the form of P&J Live. The arena has capacity for 15,000 spectators and is located just minutes from Aberdeen International Airport, with two on-site hotels to boot.

Though I estimate the city has somewhere in the region of 4,500 to 5,000 hotel rooms (double the number required), Aberdeen would be the smallest Eurovision host city since Millstreet in 1993, which could prove an obstacle.

Prospects: Dark horse


3. Leeds

A city in the north of England would be a clear levelling up statement from the BBC, and Leeds looks like the most likely option in that category.

Leeds Arena would look good on TV and has a capacity near 14,000, though a Leeds proposal may be let down somewhat by the fact its public transport network is substandard for a city of its size.

Prospects: Contender


2. Birmingham

Birmingham will undoubtedly have a very strong bid and is likely to be shortlisted. The city possesses somewhere around 10,000 hotel rooms and the Resorts World Arena is a roomy venue, boasting a 15,7000 capacity.

However, Birmingham played host the last time the UK held the contest in 1998, so the BBC might want to try somewhere new.

Prospects: Strong contender


1. Glasgow

Glasgow fulfils all the criteria and pips Birmingham to the post on the basis it hasn’t hosted the contest before and the strength of its potential venue.

The OVO Hydro is an attractive building that would be perfect for Eurovision — so much so that it was used for exterior shots of the fictional contest in the Eurovision Story of Fire Saga film in 2020. Could life be about to imitate art?

Prospects: Strong contender


Trade the Eurovision 2023 host city on Smarkets.

Patrick Flynn

4 August 2022

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