I’m all for expansion but Magic Weekend in New York just wouldn’t work.
I have had a couple of weeks to mull over the idea of next year’s Magic Weekend potentially being in New York and my opinion hasn’t changed at all.
But before we get onto the American fantasy, let’s talk about Newcastle. It is clear that the weekend needs to move away from St James’ Park because people are bored.
That is nothing against the stadium or Newcastle, but it has overstayed its welcome. The annual event took place for a fourth consecutive year at the home of Newcastle United FC last month, and it fell to its lowest attendance since its arrival in the North East.
The highest crowd at Newcastle was 68,276 in 2016, but the numbers have declined since. It hasn’t gone down by much, with the 2018 attendance being 64,319, but it is a good indication that the crowds aren’t going to improve if it stays put. If anything, it will continue to decline.
Anyway, onto New York, New York.
The New York-based rugby league team haven’t even heard anything back from the Rugby Football League yet in regards to their application to join the professional ranks next season.
And it looks very unlikely at this stage in the season that they will gain entry to League 1 for 2019 now.
Personally, I believe we should at least wait until we have a team in one of the three tiers before we take a game there, so we can promote the club as well as the sport.
We wouldn’t be able to logistically afford going to New York anyway. If we take 64,000 fans to Newcastle, which is only a couple of hours away from the heartlands, we will no doubt struggle taking 2,000 to America from the UK.
The price of a fan going to New York is very expensive, too. You wouldn’t just be able to go for the two days, so you would have to make a week or so out of it. It could cost around £2,000 for a fan to go over, not forgetting to mention families who would find it near impossible to afford the trip.
And surely the RFL will not take it to New York relying on attracting American sports fans.
I am a big fan of the whole ‘expansion’ idea and I love seeing what Toronto Wolfpack are doing in Canada, close to the Best Canadian Casinos. However, let’s get the basics right first and get a club in New York before randomly taking Magic Weekend there.
America could be a fantastic destination for rugby league in the future, but not for Magic Weekend at the moment. It will be interesting to see what the reception is for England’s mid-season Test with New Zealand in Denver…
For what it’s worth, I’d take the 2018 Magic Weekend to Manchester, Sheffield or Birmingham.
Rugby league has been and always will be a working-class sport, so let’s be proud of that and give the fans what they want and build gradually, e.g. starting with South Yorkshire and Sheffield.
Rome wasn’t built in a day after all.