The Magic Weekend is easily one of the highlights of the Super League year. Its undoubted success since its inception in 2007 has meant that Rugby League fans have taken the occasion to heart and a whole generation of young fans have never been without it, helping to secure the event for years to come. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we are able to enjoy it once more.
But something that comes up most years is where the Magic Weekend should be held. There was a lot of public indignation when the fan favourite of Newcastle and St. James’ Park as the host was switched to Anfield with many arguing it fell short of expectations. This led to organisers announcing that St. James’ Park would once again host the event in 2020. Also, the event has to build good relations with the city that it chooses to situate itself in. This is harder to do the further away from the Rugby League heartlands you go and experiences in Edinburgh, where fans were not allowed in some pubs with Rugby League shirts on, attest to this. But when there has to be a stadium large enough to accommodate 50,000-70,000 fans and the event wants to try something new, the field of choice can be narrow.
So, without looking to past venues for the event and in no particular order, here are five potential new venues for the Magic Weekend:
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London – Capacity: 62,850
London already hosts the Challenge Cup Final and to add another Super League feather to its proverbial cap would go a long way to solidify the sport in the city. With rumours that Championship side London Broncos have finally found a permanent home where they can start to build a solid fan base, it is a great opportunity for more interest to be generated. Like Newcastle Thunder were meant to do in 2020, the Broncos could open the event and if managed properly, it could be the start of a meaningful foothold at club level in The Big Smoke. Plus, it cannot be denied that this stadium is one of the most jaw dropping to ever have been built and for Rugby League to be played there would be a huge boon for fans.
Hampden Park, Glasgow – Capacity: 51, 866
Forays for Rugby League in Scotland haven’t been as much of a success as they were hoped to be. (The glorious experiences of the Principality Stadium and Cardiff were not reciprocated). A city other than Edinburgh would be the best idea if it were to be considered again. Glasgow is by far the best option with Hampden Park the best venue. It is primarily a football stadium therefore the sport of Rugby League is a new concept there. This would create a better atmosphere for fans away from the deafening roar of negligence towards Rugby League that some fans found at the home of Edinburgh RU and the Scottish national team.
Aviva Stadium, Dublin – Capacity: 51,700
Why on earth should we go from the home of Scottish Rugby Union to the home of Irish Rugby Union? Well, put simply, we haven’t been there before, so why not? Dublin is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and with great travel links by ferry and cheap flights from both small and large airports, it would be a fantastic location for families. Rugby League needs to be careful though as expansion seems to have been at the forefront of the last couple of years. Encroaching on sporting territory that is quite happy as it is in a country with no Rugby League teams at all could be taken the wrong way. If managed properly though, it should run smoothly. It may even generate interest in the sport without Super League even trying! Does this matter? To the everyday fan, probably not, but Dublin would be a fantastic location to host the event nonetheless.
Old Trafford – Capacity: 76,000
There is a reason why Old Trafford is known as the Theatre of Dreams. If you are a Saint, a Warrior, or a Rhino you will know why. But only a small portion of Super League clubs have ever gotten to the Grand Final here and it is probable that some clubs will never get the chance. For the fans of these clubs it would be a fantastic opportunity for them to finally get to watch their team play at Old Trafford. The location is perfect for all Super League clubs and the city centre of Manchester is a fantastic place to be. Organisers know this stadium works well for what it wants and the relationship between the two is something to be commended, so why not give it a chance to host another Rugby League event?
Stadium of Light, Sunderland – Capacity: 49,000
The northern reaches of England have proved to be a huge success for Rugby League in recent years. It is widely regarded that Newcastle Thunder are expanding in the right way and with the success of the Magic Weekend at St. James’ Park it is clear that something good is brewing in that part of the world. This should give Super League the confidence to try somewhere else in the area and the Stadium of Light is the perfect candidate. Although the smallest venue on the list, it is better to have a packed out crowd than a few thousand empty seats. Its proximity to Newcastle is well within day trip distance and its location by the sea offers families the chance to take advantage of both Seaburn and Roker Beaches. This location ticks all the boxes and would be well worth looking into.