Taking Super League’s Magic Weekend to Elland Road next year is a blunder that has angered fans and players.
St James’ Park in Newcastle is unavailable in August in 2024, mostly due to the change in ownership of Newcastle United, so the governing body has decided to bring the event back to the heartlands. This is a mistake.
The decision has pissed off many supporters and players. Salford’s Ryan Brierley succinctly put it on Twitter: “Whilst the NRL are having a round in Las Vegas. Shoot ourselves in the foot time after time.”
Many agreed with the fullback’s take. While the NRL is expanding, targeting America and looking to bring in a new club from Papua New Guinea, Super League is contracting and looking inward.
Elland Road is unpalatable for many reasons – it’s an old stadium, the match day experience isn’t great, the seating is cramped and there is nothing around the ground. It is fine for a one-off game but not for a two-day event. There’s nothing to entertain fans between six games of rugby league, aside from two pubs, a McDonald’s, a Subway and a chippy nearby.
The home of Leeds United is a fair away from the city’s bars, restaurants and nightlife. It’s also smack bang in the heart of west Yorkshire, right in the sport’s heartlands.
St James’ Park worked because it was away from the heartlands, it was a weekend mini-break for fans and the ground was perfectly located near to pubs and hotels. It was something different to the usual Super League round. It was ideal.
Magic Weekend was started in 2007 to promote rugby league, and it started in Cardiff and was funded by the Welsh Tourist Board. It was later moved to Edinburgh, funded by VisitScotland, and then has had stops in Manchester and Liverpool along the way. It has proved most popular and most successful in the north-east.
But by moving it to Leeds you not only kill the experience of the event, but the ambition of expansion and taking the sport to new markets.
Holding it during the football season means many stadia will be unavailable, but surely a better option could have been found – Nottingham’s City Ground, Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane, Birmingham’s Villa Park or Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.
🏉 Elland Road to host the Super League’s Magic Weekend, as all 12 clubs gather in Leeds on the 17th and 18th August
— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 21, 2023
Going back to Cardiff or Edinburgh would have excited the fanbase more. Or maybe even venturing over the Irish Sea to Dublin. Anything that was enticing, attractive and different.
IMG want to get rid of Magic Weekend, but the Super League clubs want to keep it. It works well financially well for them, but only if fans support it. The question is will they in 2024 at Elland Road?
Constantly annoying and pissing off your fans will only end in one way – in tears. They will either not turn up or turn off their TV screens.
Even the fixture list for Magic 2024 fails to inspire – Saturday Hull FC v London Broncos, Wigan Warriors v St Helens and Warrington Wolves v Leeds Rhinos, Sunday Leigh Leopards v Salford Red Devils, Catalans Dragons v Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants v Castleford Tigers.
Surely the Hull derby, Wigan vs Leigh, St Helens vs Warrington, Leeds vs Castleford, Huddersfield vs Salford and Catalans vs London would have been more appetising. Close the Saturday with the Rhinos vs Tigers, and then the Sunday with the two Hull clubs.
But no, this is what the RFL has gone for.
It’s dangerous to keep ignoring the wishes of fans and players. Take them for granted and one day, you won’t have any.