Saturday, 8 May 2010

Magic Weekend : Worth keeping?

By Jonathan Wilkinson

Last weekend I, along with a thousands of other rugby league fans went north to Edinburgh for the Magic Weekend, which is basically where an entire round of Super League is played in on weekend, 4 games on Saturday and then 3 on Sunday at Murrayfield.

I had a brilliant weekend, as did most of the fans there, the problem is there weren't that many there. Just an aggregate just about 50,000 turned up, and 25,000 people in a 70,000 seater stadium looks rather empty and that is assuming everybody watched all the games on the day, which they didn't. So what is to be done? Should the RFL keep it?
Personally I think they should, maybe not in Edinburgh although I think it would be a mistake to take it back to Cardiff, like so many are calling for, these are people that are thinking purely on how close the ground is to the pubs and the city centre, that is the only advantage to Cardiff, the city itself is a pain to get to by almost all modes of transport. Also there is next to no accommodation in Cardiff, meaning most of the fans will end up outside of the city, spoiling the atmosphere in the city.
The weekend should be a celebration of the greatest game of all and it does showcase the best things, namely the sport and the fact that league fans are the best in the world, getting on with each other (most of the time) without any problems. Seriously, I think any football fan would be shocked at how well we all get on.
Now for the suggestion by some that it should be moved to the start of the season, this is just insane, Super League kicks off in February, did everybody see the weather then? It was bloody cold, nobody would want to spend 7 hours in a stadium watching rugby in that weather, so for me that's a none starter.
Here is what I think should happen to improve it;

1) Make sure the city hosting it is actually going to advertise it, I have been to 3 of these events and cannot recall seeing a single advert for it in either Edinburgh or Cardiff.

2) Don't host it in a stadium over 50,000, it just makes the place look dead and kills all atmosphere. I'm almost leaning towards 40,000

3) The issue of the games themselves is a big one, first two years it was derbies, then for the past 2 years it has been a draw. Personally I think they should rotate between local derbies, for example one year have it be Leeds vs Bradford, then Leeds vs Cas then Leeds vs Wakefield and rotate it accordingly. This will stop over load on the biggest derbies, keeping it fresh and hopefully with competitive games.

4) Give tickets away to locals, lots and lots of tickets. Get people in through the gate, go to schools, local businesses, youth groups, sports teams, anything you can think of. Just get them through the gate. Just don't let there be that many empty seats.

Anyway these are my thoughts. Personally I think that Newcastle might be a decent choose, there is a local team (Gateshead), easy to get to, a great night out, only problem would be accommodation.

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