The Magic Weekend brought £4.2 million to the Newcastle economy back in 2016 and gave the Geordies a taste of Rugby League for the second year in a row. So with the event heading back to St James’ Park in 2017, can we argue that the Magic Weekend is actually the best thing the RFL have done for the sport in the Super League era?
Since its inaugural year in 2007, the Magic Weekend has slowly grown and become something the RFL can be proud of. Ask a fan of a different sport and actually, quite a few know about the event and saw how they wish their respective sport had something similar.
At the Millennium Stadium in 2007, the event received a gate almost 59,000 across the 2 days. In the 10 years since then, that has grown to nearly 69,000. However, one thing the RFL still need to work on is getting the local community involved in the event. They are sport mad up in the North East, and are more keen to try out a new sport that places like Manchester remarkably; even though is sits on the M62 corridor, it seems to be football and nothing else there.
So we’ve got the venue right now for a start. Taking it to Coventry, Bristol or London at this stage just wouldn’t work for me. The Ricoh Arena is simply too small for the event now, Bristol is just too far for fans to travel and also not big enough (not to mention it’s in union heartland), and we’ve all seen the problems West Ham have had creating atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium. For a ground of a similar size, it’s better just to keep it where it is. As for Anfield, well it’s just a bit of a dump!
While the Etihad is probably a better stadium for such an event with is’s easy access in and out of the ground, there is no argument that St James’ Park is in a far superior location in the heart of the city centre. Although there isn’t much room for a fanzone, and the steps are a bit of a pain in the backside, I’m almost certain fans will sacrifice this for the numerous pubs and clubs where they will spend their hard earned cash boosting local trade.
The Challenge Cup Final used to be a hit with the neutral fan, with many using that as their Rugby League weekend away for the year. But now with the guarantee of seeing your side play at the Magic Weekend, this has a much bigger pull. While this is a blow for that competition, it’s a boost for the sport as a whole. If 70,000 people are turning up in your town to see something, well you’re missing out on something. You better get down there and see whats going on. That’s how we expand. If we keep the Magic Weekend in Newcastle, then that’s where we need to try and expand the sport.