Formed in 2007, the Magic Weekend has been a much discussed event over the last decade. Some love it, others hate it but the fact it remains in the Rugby League calendar speaks volumes. I’ve had the privilege of going to two consecutive Magic Weekends with my old University colleagues and based on these experiences and beyond, I list 10 reasons why it’s still popular:
1.) It brings fans together: It’s great congregating with your own fans but it’s rare you get an opportunity to meet those from other clubs. It reinforces the community spirit of our great game and the rapport between clubs is always friendly. Once the pints start flowing so does the conversation. You undoubtedly find it’s usually the same topics that rear their head between supporters!
2.) Making a weekend of it: The RFL aren’t always the most perceptive but deciding to make the Magic event into a full weekend really does make it more appealing. Fans have opportunities to watch Rugby throughout the day and then explore the city on a night.
3.) The Toon: Following on nicely from the last point is the fact it’s held in Newcastle again this year. The Toon is a hive of activity and the influx of Rugby League fans merging with locals for the weekend works really well together. Traditionally a football area, perhaps a few Geordies have become converted league fans? Added to this is the revenue made from incoming fans for the weekend as they use the local services.
4.) Fancy Dress: I was lucky enough to go to Manchester Magic in 2013 & 2014; safe to say a bunch of lads took full advantage of wearing the most ridiculous outfits! 2013 saw us don Thunderbird suits while the following year, given our Hull FC allegiance, we wore penguin outfits. If you’re prepared to draw attention to yourself and roast in the sun then you can have quite a laugh, particularly if there are any rivals in their own costumes.
5.) Watching the Competition’s best: Most fans would say watching your own club isn’t always the easiest, so getting an opportunity to watch other teams and their array of stars can be quite enjoyable as a neutral. Given the continuous nature of games, there’s usually a stand-out game on each day. As fans you have the opportunity to tune in and out as you wish.
6.) Stadium atmosphere: Some clubs aren’t always able to fill out an entire stadium and it can really impact on an atmosphere during a game. What the Magic Weekend usually provides is a full stadium with ever-improving attendances, it’s great to see and really adds to the spectacle. St James’s Park is probably a perfect fit for atmosphere and capacity.
7.) Media Coverage: Rugby League doesn’t always get the media exposure it deserves but the Magic Weekend always attracts attention for the right reasons. Added to that is SKY’s dedicated coverage and this all adds to the overall experience. It may seem like I’m describing a product but this is the nature of sport nowadays and the RFL if nothing else, seems to be aware of this.
8.) An ever-changing event: The beauty of the Magic Weekend is how nomadic it is in nature. Since 2007, it has been held at Cardiff, Edinburgh, Murrayfield, Manchester and Newcastle. It has a dual purpose in that it keeps it fresh and allows fans to explore new cities but also taps into the RFL’s incessant drive for expansion in the game.
9.) A change of scenery: After the gruelling Easter period, players and fans alike are probably both ready for something a little different and the Magic Weekend offers just that. Some teams adapt to the change of venue better than others but the opportunity to play in a big stadium tends to bring the best out in players.
10.) The Memories: I’ve left this one until last as it’s something most fans can relate to. 3 years on my friends and I still talk about all the things we got up to in Manchester as well as the games, comradery with opposing fans and costume ridicule (in our case). It’s well worth going at least once and I’m sure more memories will be made at this year’s weekend.