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NRL Magic Weekend sets record attendance

Shaun Johnson of the Warriors signs autographs for fans. One New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers, Round 10 (Magic Round) of the NRL Premiership

NRL’s version of Magic Weekend, which they call Magic Round, set its record attendance last week.

Derived from Super League’s Magic Weekend, all the games are played at one venue, which has always been Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane since the event started in 2019.

This year, it drew in a total of 149,196 fans, which broke 2023’s record of 147,105.

Meanwhile, the record weekend attendance for Super League’s Magic Weekend is lower than half of that: 68,276 in 2016 at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

In 2023, it was lower, at 63,312, although it has increased year-on-year in each instance since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Charnze Nicholl-Klokstad of the Warriors dejected. One New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers, Round 10 (Magic Round) of the NRL Premiership

Credit: Imago Images

It’s worth noting that NRL’s Magic Round has two more games, four more teams, and one extra date than Magic Weekend does.

However, it’s also worth noting the huge difference in the distance that fans have to travel, as Brisbane is, for example, a ten-hour drive from Sydney, a fifteen-hour drive from Townsville (home of the North Queensland Cowboys), a twenty-hour drive from Melbourne and a four-hour flight from Auckland (home of New Zealand Warriors).

As a comparison, the team furthest away from Newcastle (other than Catalans Dragons) in Super League is London Broncos, who are less than four hours away from St James Park.

NRL has also seen a huge increase in numbers since its inaugural event, going from an average daily attendance of 33,669 to 49,732, an increase of almost 48%, while Super League’s has improved by less than 8% since starting in 20o7.

Why doesn’t Magic Weekend have the same success?

Magic Weekend

Credit: Imago Images

It’s no secret that NRL has much higher attendances than Super League. Its average attendance at the time of writing is 19,296: this is higher than every single Super League game this season except Hull FC vs Hull KR at the MKM Stadium in Round One.

Therefore, it’s understandable that Magic Round has higher attendances than Magic Weekend.

However, the stagnant attendance figures in comparison to the huge increase in just five years in Brisbane is a different story.

It shows the huge difference in marketing between the two leagues, which have both taken drastic steps recently to attempt to grow the game.

NRL’s first matches in Las Vegas caused a real stir in the rugby league world, while the appointment of IMG to improve the marketing side of British rugby league has shaken the game also.

General view of Leeds Rhinos v Castleford TIgers at Elland Road

Credit: Imago Images

It will be really interesting to see attendances at Magic Weekend 2024, which is at Elland Road in August.

Elland Road, home of Leeds United, has a capacity of 37,890, which is higher than the highest day attendance for the past four events, but lower than that of 2015, 2016 and 2018.

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