Magic Weekend needs a way forward

It remains an innovative idea with potential, but once again it seems the Magic Weekend has fallen short of being a big success.

The RFL, who continue to strive to improve the game with such groundbreaking ideas, through chief executive Nigel Wood dubbed Murrayfield Magic as “another great example of the Rugby League family coming together to enjoy the big occasion.”

The crowd figure was given as 52,043 across the two days – although this will have counted the same people twice if they attended both days – slightly down from last year and also down from the figures when the weekend was held at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

And Wood isn’t giving much away as to the future of the Magic Weekend, but one would imagine it will be retained in some shape or form, considering the noises coming out of the governing body both pre and post-action.

“Although the event has worked well, we will now do what we always do and review everything that happened over the weekend with all the people who were involved,” added Wood.

“There are a lot of factors to consider in deciding what happens next. The RFL will provide all the feedback required for the clubs to make an informed decision on the future of The Magic Weekend.”

It should be shouted from the roof-tops, and it should be the focus of the sporting weekend. Instead, it finds itself almost forgotten about, knocked out of the headlines by Championship football, the World Snooker championship and, bizarrely, a game between the Army and Navy rugby union sides at Twickenham. At the moment, as it is, the Magic Weekend isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

Players and coaches were keen to give their alternative suggestions in the media last week, and one that caught a bit of attention was the suggestion that the weekend could be used to kick start the season.

With the Grand Final proving the showcase to the season, to start the season with a bang would certainly capture the attention of the media and hopefully gain rugby league exposure, which should be one of the RFL’s top priorities, considering the code’s constant battle to gain a foothold in the union-centric national media.

However, as good as an idea it is, pitches in February would struggle to handle multiple games on back-to-back days, and football teams won’t be too keen on offering the use of their facilities if it’s going to hamper their style of play for the rest of the football season.

A possible solution would be for rugby league to take over a city that has two relatively large sized stadiums for a weekend and hold all seven games there. An example of this would be Liverpool, which has Anfield and Goodison Park within relatively close distance of each other, although the city is probably too close to the heartlands for the weekend to be a success, but there are plenty of other solutions.

There is also the consideration of fans. Would many be keen to shell out to see their team in action for the first time in months? Is the Magic Weekend all about capturing the fans imagination throughout the season before the weekend away? With away trips to London and Catalans, and possibly Toulouse in 2012, is rugby league in danger of pricing fans out of away trips?

Owing to the economic climate, cost is an issue, and that probably rules out one suggestion I read on another fans forum, that suggested holding the opening weekend in Barcelona, or in a similarly milder climate, where the pitches perhaps wouldn’t take as much of a battering as Wrexham on a snowy February evening.

As innovations go, the RFL are certainly on the cusp of something with the Magic Weekend. However, it’s four years old now, and it needs revitalising somehow if it is going to become a major fixture in the sporting calendar.

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