As much as a success that the RFL claim the Magic Weekend to be, it was apparently let down once again by poor marketing, which is almost as common within rugby league as bad refereeing.
For rugby league’s lack of coverage in the national press you’d think they’d use a big event like this to drum publicity, and get a few more column inches in the Dailies. And to be fair, the Magic Weekend did seem to catch the imagination of many journalists, particularly in comparison to your normal Super League weekend.
But yet again the RFL shot themselves in the foot, perhaps indirectly, thanks to the lack of publicity surrounding the event in Cardiff itself.
Why is it that we have such a great product, but miss clear opportunities to market it?
The thousands of empty seats we saw at the Millennium Stadium could quite easily have been filled by curious locals willing to have a taster of what rugby league is like. After all, if you listen to some so called experts, if Celtic Crusaders are given a Super League licence, then thousands upon thousands of Welsh rugby league fans will come out of the woodwork to support them. Yeah, right.
The local council isn’t daft though. It is a well known fact that the Magic Weekend is very much a magic weekend for pub landlords and hotel owners alike. 60,000 people, primarily northerners, flocked to the Welsh capital spending their money, collectively supposed to be worth up to £10m.
The purpose of the weekend is to raise the profile of the game, and spread its wings. It appears that after two years in Cardiff, the RFL are happy with what they have achieved. Celtic Crusaders are very much at the forefront of people’s minds, and they have earned their right to compete at the top of National League 1 having fought their way up from the league below.
So maybe it’s now time to set the wheels in motion elsewhere. Edinburgh has suddenly become a favourite to host the event in 2009, with local councillors probably already plotting how to spend the cash injection they are sure to receive. More bike lanes anyone?
In all seriousness though, the RFL could do a lot worse than to go to the Scottish capital. If the weekend can be advertised properly to the locals, then the rugby league on show will sell itself. Assuming Castleford and Wigan turn up next year, of course.
Plans are to seed the teams to ensure competitive contests, which may be good for the neutrals, but might not necessarily bring down (or up) as many fans as it would for a derby game. For instance, would as many Hull KR fans have travelled if they weren’t playing Hull?
Either way, the concept, despite its critics, is definitely worth pushing, and who knows, maybe this time in a couple of years, we may have the first professional team from Scotland within our ranks.