ANALYSIS: EVA chief dismisses talk of merger - New man Closier remains undeterred by calls for a single trade association. Philip Chadwick reports

Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre chief executive Mike Closier has been confirmed as the Exhibition Venue Association's (EVA) new chairman.

He has eight years' experience in the industry and reaction to his appointment has been positive.

King's Hall director Philip Rees says: "It is splendid news. He has a great feeling, fondness and knowledge of the industry."

Earls Court & Olympia Group (ECO) commercial director Nigel Nathan adds: "I hope he will be instrumental in discussing all potential avenues that will help this industry prosper."

One of those avenues is how the industry works together. Closier believes in working closely with other associations, including the British Association of Exhibition Contractors (BECA) and the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO), but is against any formal merger.

"We all work together for the good of the industry,

he says. "But the issue of how this is done, for example by putting the three associations under an umbrella organisation, is irrelevant and I won't be losing sleep over it."

One major industry figure who disagrees is ECO chief executive Andrew Morris. He believes the AEO, EVA and BECA should become a single association with the AEO taking the lead.

"As an industry we need to raise our game, raise our profile and ensure that we get a decent slice of the marketing pie. We can't achieve that as separate bodies,

he says.

Royal Horticultural Halls managing director Rene Dee counters that such a move would not be in the interest of EVA or BECA. "The AEO is the wrong association because EVA and BECA cover areas such as conferences and product launches. The AEO is too small and narrow a trade association to do this."

Morris responds: "There is a logical argument for them working together in the future and the AEO is well placed to take the lead. But we are quite open as to how it could work."

AEO director-general Trevor Foley says: "My personal view is that it would be in the industry's best interest to unite, but it has to be an industry decision. There is no point making such a move unless everyone is willing."

And new EVA chief Closier does not appear willing. But while the debate about a single industry body rages on, there is at least one thing on which everyone agrees - a closer working relationship betweeen the AEO, EVA and BECA can only benefit the whole industry.

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