Super League says the time of year has forced them to scale down their ambitious plans for constant on-pitch activity at Magic Weekend.
The timing of the Challenge Cup final meant Magic Weekend has moved away from the end of the football season.
Whereas usually the load on the pitch isn’t a huge issue, as it would normally be ripped up soon after the event, typically football clubs use June and July to relay and prepare their pitch for the new season.
It means that none of the 12 Super League clubs in action over the weekend will warm-up on the pitch – instead they will prepare for games at Leazes Park next door.
Moving the Challenge Cup final has caused a headache for Super League chiefs, and they are as yet unsure where on the calendar Magic will sit next season.
The cup final was held at the end of May this year, forcing Magic Weekend away from what had been its regular slot from 2012-2019. Last year, due to COVID restrictions, it was staged in September.
Organisers say the best time for the event is at the end of the football season, for various reasons including pitch maintenance and stadium availability.
But they must wait to see where the cup final slots in – with BBC schedules having a big impact.
Planned participants were left disappointed when they were informed that exhibition games for Try Tag Rugby, Masters, X-League and Touch RL had been cancelled.
— Keiron Jones (@KJonsey_89) July 6, 2022
They were due to form part of a festival of rugby league at St James’ Park.
But the Learning Disability Super League and Year 7 Boys Champions Schools final, which has traditionally been held at Wembley, will still go ahead.
A Super League spokesperson said: “Super League has viewed Magic Weekend as a festival for the sport, and more recently tried to involve other variants of rugby league in the weekend by giving them an opportunity for on-pitch activity.
“From the outset, Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) made Super League aware that the pitch had been recently re-laid and that all the usual activities, that are normally not an issue when the event is played in May, could be at risk.
“On this occasion we have tried to be too ambitious in the hope that the pitch would be well enough developed for us to work with NUFC on the additional activity. Over the last few days conversations with NUFC have meant that a couple of the activities, including Try Tag have had to be changed from being on the pitch. These activities were offered an alternative option to continue to be part of the weekend, but Super League appreciates these aren’t as attractive.
“Super League has an extremely strong partnership with NUFC and we’re grateful that, in addition to six Betfred Super League games, we can continue with a significant amount of on-pitch entertainment, including Learning Disability Super League, Year 7 Boys Champions Schools final and Join the Momentum dancers.”