The Magic Weekend times and dates have been released for 2021 for what will be the concept’s 14th celebration.
With the 2020 Magic Weekend at St James’ Park cancelled, it’s anticipated that the 2021 event will be bigger and better than ever. The Newcastle football ground has been incredibly popular over the years which meant that the weekend’s move to Anfield in 2019 was met with a series of groans.
Here, however, we rank the five Magic Weekend venues from worst to best.
5. Anfield, Liverpool
It was a strange choice to take the 2019 Magic Weekend to Liverpool’s Anfield stadium after a few successful years at Newcastle. It was even stranger considering that Anfield is a few miles walk from the actual centre of Liverpool rather than a 100 metre walk as it is at St James’ Park. And, the crowd numbers proved the decision to move wasn’t justified. It was the second smallest spectator count in the event’s history with less than 57,000 attending over the weekend. No wonder then that after just one year, Anfield was scrapped in favour of St James’ Park.
4. Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Like Anfield, Murrayfield Stadium is a few miles away from the actual centre of Edinburgh, making it another venue that wasn’t perhaps properly equipped to house thousands of rugby league fans from bar to stadium. And, the numbers again reflected that with Murrayfield incurring the lowest attendance over a weekend in Magic Weekend history – just over 52,000 made the trip in 2010, despite 59,000 making the journey the year before. A two-year spell was all it needed to convince organisers to move.
3. Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
With Magic Weekend beginning as a concept in 2007, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was chosen as the first location. And, to be fair, despite it being hundreds of miles away from the traditional heartland of rugby league, Cardiff was actually quite successful. Crowds hit over 60,000 twice in the three years that the event was held there and the Welsh capital was the fall-back option in 2011 after the Murrayfield experiment failed. It would be interesting to see if Cardiff would ever be given a chance for third time lucky.
2. Etihad Stadium, Manchester
The first foray into England came in the shape of Manchester – a smooth option with easy access for Super League teams. Manchester City’s home, the Etihad Stadium, held the Magic Weekend for the first time in 2012 with the highest attendance ever – nearly 64,000 filled the then Premier League champions’ home. The event lasted three years in Manchester with its last year – 2014 – breaking the 64,000-attendance mark.
1. St James’ Park, Newcastle
There can only be one winner on this list and it’s St James’ Park. 2015 and 2016 saw crowds hit over 67,000 and 68,000. Granted, attendances dropped in 2017 and 2018, but even the lowest count of 64,319 in 2018 was higher than all those at other grounds apart from the Etihad in 2014. A party atmosphere transcended through the city as rugby league fans of all colours filled the Toon, ready to descend on the stadium minutes before kick-off. The luxury of being about 100 metres from the stadium is one that was lost at every other venue and that, inevitably, led to more enjoyment and less stress about getting into the stadium on time. For the good of the event and the sport then, returning in 2021 and 2022 was perhaps the most sensible option.