Magic Weekend organisers wanted to keep the event at St James’ Park but are encouraged by the early signs of moving it to Elland Road.
Newcastle has become the spiritual home of the annual rugby league pilgrimage, where each Super League team takes to the field.
St James’ Park has hosted seven of the last eight Magic Weekends, the exception being the 2019 event at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC.
There will be a different host for the 17th edition in 2024, as it moves to the home of Leeds United, a decision that has resulted in much disdain from supporters. But despite that, early ticket sales have done well.
RL Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones said: “I don’t think Elland Road will mind me saying it, our preference was to go to Newcastle.
“It wasn’t an option. After evaluating all the other viable options, we landed on Elland Road.
“It gives them an opportunity to stake a claim for it. If it flies and it’s a success, then what’s to say that we don’t stay at Elland Road?
“They are very keen to have it and have been very keen to secure us going there, and I think they’ll do a really good job for us.
“We went on sale yesterday (Sunday), and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the 24-hour ticket sale number, especially having read some of the criticism that we got when we made the announcement.”
What does it mean for the future of Magic Weekend?
It could turn out to be the very last Magic Weekend, after rugby league’s strategic partners IMG recommended it was scrapped.
A u-turn, thought to be driven by clubs, meant the event remained for the 2024 season but its future will no doubt be debated before, during and after this year’s event, which will take place on the weekend of August 17/18.
IMG are working on a new event that is set to feature in the calendar in 2025, though they are keen to emphasise that the new event isn’t a replacement for Magic Weekend.
Jones added: “In terms of the future of Magic, it is an ongoing conversation. At this moment time, as you would expect me to say, we are going to focus on this year’s one, making sure it is the best one it is and there has ever been.
“At the same time, it does two things. It enables us to re-engage perhaps with Newcastle and other venues knowing that we’ve got one in the calendar and it also gives Elland Road the opportunity to stake a claim.”
The new event, and the future of Magic Weekend, will be on the table in the first quarter of the year as IMG look to iron out the calendar for 2025 and beyond.
A new proposal, said to have been six-months work, was put to RL Commercial and a handful of clubs in the summer but had to be put on the backburner due to the then ongoing negotiations over a new TV deal.
The 2024 Magic Weekend at Elland Road kicks off with Hull FC and London Broncos on Saturday August 17.
That is followed by a mouth-watering clash between Wigan and St Helens, and then home-city club Leeds take on Warrington.
On the Sunday, Leigh take on Salford, Catalans face Hull KR and Huddersfield go up against Castleford.