The Magic Weekend is one of the biggest and best showpiece events in our great game. The atmosphere is always sublime and something to behold. It has been home to plenty of huge moments and big games.
In truth, the Magic Weekend is everything good about Super League distilled into a wild weekend that the fans in attendance thoroughly enjoy as do those watching at home on the TV. So, why don’t we use it to promote our sport and get more eyes on it?
Right now, Sky dictate the coverage of the weekend and when it airs. It has to be said, they do a stand-up job. Every year, their coverage of the event is top drawer. They give it the shine and the pomp the event deserves so that any casual viewers who stumble across it are instantly swept up in the scope of the event as well as the scintillating rugby unfolding on the pitch.
As it’s only available on Sky Sports, the number of casual viewers who can stumble across it is greatly diminished. I’m not blaming Sky, but I must admit that I feel if this weekend feast of rugby league was made available to a wider audience, it could help promote the sport.
Imagine how an effective marketing campaign along with Sky broadcasting every game on free TV could lure new fans to the event. With every team shown in high-profile games, it would show these new viewers the brilliance and competitiveness of our competition and just how majestic a good game of rugby league could be.
Promotions like directing football fans of certain teams to corresponding sides in Super League could be run to prompt new viewers to adopt their own teams for the weekend maybe even luring them into supporting them fulltime.
Think about how effective of last year’s Magic Weekend could’ve been at attracting new fans if it had been widely publicised and made available to everyone outside the sport? Catalans’ dramatic win to claim the league leaders shield against the Champions, the scintillating affair between Leeds and Hull FC which ended in an end-to-end bout of extra time, the battle royale between Wigan and Warrington – all of these had the power to entice first time viewers into subscribing to Sky Sports to keep track of the sport they’ve just discovered. Soon enough they could even be buying tickets to see their local team.
At the end of the day, the Magic Weekend was invented to attract more fans to the sport and promote the game in new previously untouched areas and one of the best ways to do that would be making it free to watch especially if we chose a weekend with no football to rival the event, so many casual sporting fans could turn to the event as they look to fill their weekend with sport. Then, suddenly Super League is making new fans who’ll bring increased viewership, help finances, boost the profile of the sport and perhaps within a year could be attending the Magic Weekend in person.
Of course, a lot of logistical problems stand in the way, but it surely can be done if all parties buy into what the weekend stands for and what the sport needs right now and right now it needs new fans and fresh blood. One of the best ways of doing so would be making the Magic Weekend free to watch and therefore this is an avenue the game needs to consider and there was a step towards this last year with every Day One game available on Sky Sports Mix which is free to all Sky and Virgin TV subscribers regardless of Sky Sports subscription.
However, Day Two was only be available to those with Sky Sports and to watch any of the rugby a person must have Sky in some form. Sky are great providers but making the games more readily available over the weekend could be a massive boost for the sport even if both Sky and another provider show every game of the weekend concurrently.