It is still yet decided if Magic Weekend will continue into 2024, or if the 2023 event in Newcastle will be the last ever upon IMG’s strategic future for the sport.
But a total crowd of 63,269 at Magic Weekend suggests that supporters continue to enjoy the concept and will turn up in somewhat decent numbers for the Super League showcase event.
With Salford, Hull KR, Catalans, Wigan, Castleford and Leeds in action, 36,943 was the official attendance for Magic Weekend day one – the fourth highest for a single day.
It was a slight increase on last year’s 36,821 with Wakefield, Toulouse, St Helens, Wigan, Leeds and Castleford featuring across the opening day.
17,000 watched on inside Newcastle United’s St James’ Park for the opening game between Hull KR and Salford this year, which is a new record.
The highest attendance for a single day was recorded in 2015 in Newcastle, with 40,871 on the Saturday.
As trends seem to follow, Sunday held a lower crowd of 26,326. The last time a Sunday number was better than the previous day was back in 2013 with 31,249 inside Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
The 2023 figure slightly beats last year’s of 62,154 – but the numbers prove there is still a future for the concept.
Having attended Magic Weekend as a fan and for work, I’m a big advocate of the event which showcases Super League’s biggest and best talent.
Not only for the supporters who attend, but the weekend is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the sport on the Sky Sports cameras, with all six games on the TV screens.
That alone will attract non-rugby league fans, which undoubtedly the sport needs.
The NRL has recently adopted the concept and has seen huge success Down Under – and as Warrington boss Daryl Powell pointed out during the week, if those in Australia are copying, we must be doing something right.
It has been hinted that the concept will continue into 2024 after receiving full backing from clubs. Not one head coach questioned the weekend during their respective weekly press conferences – although some would like to see a reduction on loop fixtures.
“It brings freshness”
IMG had previously revealed its plans to scrap Magic Weekend and potentially replace it with an unspecified alternative – and fair play to anyone who can come up with anything better than Magic Weekend AND get the clubs to buy in.
There is potentially an idea to involve the Challenge Cup somehow, which has seen a struggle in crowd numbers in recent times.
Newcastle enjoyed hosting Magic Weekend for the seventh time in 2023 with question marks over the future of the event in the north east.
However, there would be no qualms in taking the weekend to yet another brand new stadium and allowing fans to enjoy top facilities.
To date, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle have all played hosts as cities.
“I think people look forward to it,” Wigan boss Matt Peet previously said.
“Maybe there’s innovation around it but I do like the festival feel of it.
“I like that we play at a big ground, everyone gets together and celebrates the rugby league community, so I’d like to see innovation rather than getting rid of it completely, but that’s just my personal opinion.
“It’s certainly something we look forward to. It brings a freshness.”
Leeds coach Rohan Smith commented: “The NRL have followed the concept and had great success with that.
“If it was up to me with plenty of footy on at one place and every game being on TV, it’s a great thing for our sport I believe.”