What Next For Magic Weekend?

Hello.

Anyone there?

It’s been a while since we updated this thing and we’re not going to depress everyone even more than you are by reliving the last three matches.

Instead, we’re going to chat some shit about Magic Weekend.

We were initially going to run this piece after the Magic game itself, but after the what felt like a Wigan last second match winner, we lost our mojo a bit and after what passes as a production meeting at Piss Towers before the Leeds match we decided to press on and write a Wigan report and then Leeds happened and Salford we really lost our mojo and then we lost our temper we laid into them almost as much as Ray French did on Radio Merseyside when he forgot his mic was still on.

You might be able to find it on the BBC radio thing if you’re so minded.

If you’re not he wasn’t very kind; “gutless”, “overrated”, “lacking in passion” was all mentioned. It’s hard to disagree with him after what has been a dreadful year.

Anyway, we digress.

The RFL have a habit of shunting the Magic Weekend about, not just in terms of location but also around the calendar.

With the game’s structure yet again up for review at the end of the season, is the whole Weekend in need of a shake-up?

We’ve gone on record previously saying that even though the sport as a whole needs flagship events, we’re not huge fans of the Magic Weekend.

This year’s games were hardly a draw, apart from fans of the respective teams (of which there aren’t there aren’t all that many) was going to drive 3 hours on a Saturday morning for Widnes v Wakey?

It also means that while Warrington play the fucking world champions three times in the league, Wakefield get to play the worst team in the comp three times and we’re not sure that stacks up.

The fixture list is already crowded; we’ve just done our “second Easter”, more of that later, surely we don’t need to shoehorn an extra round of fixtures in to get 27,000 people through the door of a cavernous stadium once a year.

If there were things going on around the day to help Newcastle Thunder or, more importantly, schools in the area pick up the game, then fair enough, but it’s a couple of days of muscly blokes in tight shirts that nobody in the north east has a pissing clue about answering questions stood in front of a Dacia Canyonero or whatever the frig it’s called and Liam Watts twatting some Newcastle United under 18’s and pretending it’s a tackle.

It’s shite, low rent promotion that stinks of a Scumbag College Marketing NVQ brainstorming session, meanwhile, the Rah-rah’s are getting 40,000 into Twickers for an England Reserve game.

There’s something wrong there.

We’re always told the “product” is good yet we still struggle to attract people in large enough numbers to make us look anything other than tinpot on the telly.

We’ve all seen how constantly piss poor the crowds look in big stadiums on countless occasions.

Is it time do downsize?

A bit of googling shows that the biggest single day crowd at any one Magic was 40,000 and there’s no way that they were all in the place at one time.

It looks wank in stadiums with a capacity of 50k and more.

So, what next?

Well-respected RL journalist and all round good egg Gary Carter has reported this weekend that the RFL are looking at potentially moving the magic weekend away from Newcastle from next season and there are a four other cities that have applied to host it.

They are Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Coventry.

As stated, we don’t think it’s really hitting off in Newcastle so here’s a couple of suggestions from the brains of two gobshites on the intenet.

Coventry

If we are going to take the whole weekend on the road to a new city, then it should be Coventry.

The north-south divide between league and union has never really been bridged and the only rugby presence in the midlands has historically been the Leicester Tigers in the East.

That all changed a few years ago when Wasps upped sticks and fucked off from that London, or Watford, or Wycombe, or wherever they were playing and did an NFL-style relocation to the West Midlands.

From what little interest we pay to t’other code, life seemed to have started pretty well for the club when they moved to the Ricoh, not losing a home game for ages and getting far bigger crowds than what Coventry City could hope to get at the same ground.

For such an innovative and progressive thinking sport that we like to say we are, rugby league has to hold its collective hands up and admit a great big mistake letting the posh boys move in on uncharted territory in a bigger way than we did, with the presence of Coventry Bears in league two hardly a drop in the ocean compared to a full-time, well renowned sporting brand moving in to the city.

The four nations double header last year attracted a decent crowd at the stadium and there has been talk of the Wasps club actually keen to host the weekend and perhaps branch out into super league as dual code club, like Harlequins tried.

You have to say, without the hundreds of years or rivalry and distain between the two codes, if it was going to work anywhere, it could be Coventry and a few years of hosting Magic weekends, free tickets to Wasps Season ticket holders, school kids, heavy promotion, lots of local media coverage – let’s face it, fuck all else is going to be happening in town that weekend – should drum up some initial interest into this quicker, more entertaining code of rugby that is played in a bit of decent weather sometimes.

Manchester

The only other suggestion we’d be open for as a full weekend of fixtures would be Manchester.

Yes it’s on our doorstep and it sort of defeats the initial ideals of the early magic weekends of taking the game to new areas, but who can argue that the magic weekends at the Etihad were probably the best ones?

There’s loads on around the ground, the transport links are spot on and it’s a city that has some RL interest already.

Of course, if we are taking the Coventry model, of using the weekend as way of introducing the sport to potential new fans, Marwan Koukash would no doubt be interested to see how many people from the actual city of Manchester he could get through the gates in order to gauge interest in rebranding and moving the Salford City Reds into Manchester.

Which brings us to the other two – Leeds and Liverpool.

Here’s where we get a bit controversial.

We’ve established we’re not overly keen on the magic weekend as a whole, so how about this for a suggestion?

Remember the old on the road games that Super League used to love?

How about we bring them back? Well, sort of.

How’s about, instead of a full round of fixtures in one stadium over a weekend, a stand-alone fixture taken to a football ground nearby?

The NRL regularly play ‘showcase fixtures’ at the Telstra Stadium, as do the RFU at Twickenham and with some success.

Take Leeds vs Castleford (or Wigan, or Warrington, but probably Cas), for example, to Elland Road in the middle of summer next year.

Sell tickets for a fiver a pop – even let the Cas season ticket holders in for free – have it on a Saturday night and market the fuck out of the game for ages before hand.

Even if there is 30,000 on the gate, it’s 12,000 more than what was at Headingley the other night for the fixture. Surely that is achievable and at the same time ambitious.

What’s going to catch the eye of the wider public more: 40,000 people inside the Etihad for six games or 30,000 inside Elland road for one game?

Likewise, Warrington once played St Helens at Anfield and, assuming both clubs are playing better next year (and we’re still in super league), with a good marketing campaign, we could attract a 20,000 plus crowd to the stadium for a similar type of Showcase fixture.

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