Jan 9, 2024 2 min read

MSG formally withdraws application to build “political football” Sphere venue in London

MSG Entertainment has formally withdrawn its application to build a new Sphere venue in London, saying that the perfectly round building has become a “political football”

MSG formally withdraws application to build “political football” Sphere venue in London

MSG Entertainment has formally withdrawn its planning application to build its next Sphere venue in East London. The company said that the project had become “a political football”. And not just because of its shape.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan last year overruled a previous decision to allow the huge spherical building with an LED screen covering its outer surface to go ahead. 

The UK government’s Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, then ‘called in’ the planning application, allowing him to make a final ruling. However, the MSG company has now written to Gove saying that it will not be taking the project any further.

In a letter, the company wrote that it had spent “millions of pounds acquiring our site in Stratford and collaboratively engaging in a five year planning process with numerous governmental bodies”. Those bodies, it noted, included “the local planning authority who approved our plans following careful review”.

Declining to participate in Gove’s latest review of the application, MSG said that it “cannot continue to participate in a process that is merely a political football between rival parties”.

To suggest that the various different reviews of the London Sphere project are simply political posturing ignores the significant wider opposition to it - not least from local residents.

Khan rejected the plans on the grounds that the light pollution caused by the 300 foot tall, LED covered building would have a number of negative impacts on neighbouring residents - not least being “detrimental to human health”. He also criticised the venue’s likely environmental impact, saying that it did not “constitute good and sustainable design”.

In addition to this, campaigners and rival live company AEG also noted that there are already two large scale venues nearby - the O2 Arena and London Stadium. Adding a third, they argued, would put significant pressure on local transport systems.

MSG CEO James Dolan already indicated last year that the company was no longer interested in building a Sphere venue in London - effectively rendering Gove’s review redundant anyway. It was always possible that Dolan was doing some political posturing of his own. But now the company’s London withdrawal has been formalised, it does indeed seem that this is the end for anyone hoping that a big, bright blob would be placed on the London skyline.

The company is currently moving ahead with efforts to build Spheres in Abu Dhabi and South Korea.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to CMU.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.
Privacy Policy