Is there any point to the Summer Bash?

10 April 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson

The Summer Bash will soon be taking place in Blackpool, with the Championship’s version of Magic Weekend set to take place on the weekend of May 18.

But the question has to be asked as to whether there is any real point to the event.

Last year, just 11,805 people turned up to watch, a decline on 2017’s attendance of 16,444.

In the first year of the event, in 2015, 15,671 people attended in total. That rose in 2016 to 15,912, and again in 2017.

That marked drop for 2018 is worrying for the RFL, given that enthusiasm for the event seems to have dropped quite significantly.

It was confirmed earlier this week that this year’s even would be televised by Sky Sports.

“The Summer Bash in Blackpool has become established as a popular and enjoyable feature of the Betfred Championship season, and we reckon this year’s could be the best yet,” said Mark Foster, the chief commercial officer of the Rugby Football League.

“So we’re delighted that Sky Sports will be with us again to show all the action from Bloomfield Road.

“It’s great exposure for the Betfred Championship clubs, building on the weekly coverage of Toronto Wolfpack – and we’re grateful to both Sky and to In Touch Productions for their continued commitment to covering Championship Rugby League.

“The chat around the game is that this is a really attractive set of fixtures which will showcase the quality of rugby we see every week in the Betfred Championship.

“With Sky also showing the Betfred Super League game between Catalans and Wigan, it should be a great weekend for the game, whether in Blackpool or Barcelona.”

Quite why anyone thought it would be a good idea to have the Bash on the same weekend as Wigan Warriors are playing Catalans Dragons in Wigan, who knows?

But it is obvious which of those two rugby league events is going to attract the most headlines.

The Bash will be relegated to the status of a sideshow, and that makes the whole thing look pointless.

If it is intended to drive interest in the Championship, then it is not working.

The event seems to have no strong concept behind it, to drive its progress.

Rather, it seems like a pretty shabby copy of Magic Weekend, a concept that itself is up for debate in Super League.

Magic Weekend throws the fixture list out of whack, and there are still issues about its ideal location.

There is also still some uncertainty about what the purpose of Magic is now. Originally, it was intended to take our sport to regions where it was not traditionally very visible, like Wales, Scotland and Newcastle.

Now, its purpose seems to have shifted to being a money-making vehicle, with its move from Newcastle to Liverpool this season.

That vagueness about purpose has detracted from the even somewhat, even though it provides fans with great entertainment.

The Summer Bash has similar, but arguably more dramatic, questions about its purpose and place in the Championship schedule.

If the point is simply to mimic Magic, then it fails. It has also failed to drive greater interest in the Championship.

It doesn’t even take place in summer, not really.

The more one looks at the Summer Bash, the more ill-conceived it appears. Whether it remains a part of the schedule in future years will be interesting to see.

Betfred Championship Summer Bash Schedule

Saturday May 18:

13:15 – Toronto Wolfpack v Toulouse Olympique

15:30 – Rochdale Hornets v Swinton Lions
17:45 – York City Knights v Featherstone Rovers

20:00 - Halifax v Bradford Bulls

Sunday May 19:

13:00 – Barrow Raiders v Sheffield Eagles

15:15 – Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams

17:30 – Leigh Centurions v Widnes Vikings

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