Where and when should Magic Weekend be in 2023?

Magic Weekend
Photo credit: Mark Cosgrove/News Images

After a sixth successful staging of the event, Newcastle’s St James’ Park looks favourite to host Magic Weekend again in 2023.

A total of 62,154 fans flocked to St James’ Park over the weekend, up on the 2021 two-day aggregate figure of 60,866.

It fell short of the record of 68,276, set back in 2016, but Newcastle has now held six of the last seven events and could claim now to be the spiritual home of the event.

Magic Weekend has previously been held in Cardiff (three times), Manchester (three times), Edinburgh (twice) and Liverpool (once).

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A balance has had to be found between making it an attractive proposition to welcome bids from elsewhere and the obvious logistical benefits from keeping the same venue year-in year-out.

Super League chief commercial officer Rhodri Jones said: “I had an interesting text from one stadium on Saturday saying they were watching and it looked great and they would be interested in having a conversation.

“It’s closer to the heartland and a stadium that we’ve been to before but, to be fair to Newcastle, they’re in pole position based on the number of years we’ve been here, the relationship we’ve got with the stadium and the way the fans just love coming to Newcastle.

“We’ve been to Cardiff, Murrayfield, Manchester and Liverpool but I said it a number of years ago, I think Magic has found its home here in Newcastle.

“It’s got everything you want it to have and the stadium location is an integral part of its success.”

What time of year?

The biggest challenge now therefore appears to be finding the right time in the calendar to stage the two-day event.

RFL and Super League chiefs held their first calendar meeting last week, to discuss just where rugby league’s big events can sit.

The Challenge Cup final has slowly been brought forward from its August Bank Holiday slot, but that places it in direct competition with Magic Weekend.

Magic had to be moved to July for this year, as the cup final had taken its traditional slot at the end of the football season.

Season kick-off

Back in 2011, the Magic Weekend kicked off the season at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

While a nice way to start the season with a bang, clearly the weather doesn’t lend itself well to other activities outside of the ground.

The weather would also limit the number of possible locations – grounds would either need to have a roof, ala Cardiff, or be artificial to be able to withstand six games over two days at that time of year.

Start of May

The first four Magic Weekends were held on the first weekend in May in Cardiff and Edinburgh. This would seem like a reasonable time to hold it, especially coinciding with the May Bank Holiday – but would of course limit venues based on the football season.

The Challenge Cup scheduling would impact this though – as the semi-final event has been around this time recently.

End of football season (end of May)

This appears to be the preferred time for organisers, particularly in terms of logistics.

Getting dates from football stadia is a lot easier at the end of the season, especially because most teams rip up their pitches ahead of the summer.

That means playing six games over two days is less of a problem than it would be at other times of the year.

Mid-summer

Although organisers had to cancel some of the planned on-pitch activity, this year’s Magic Weekend seems to have gone down a treat and the attendance stood up to previous years.

MORE: Super League explains reduced pitch activity and no team warm-ups at Magic Weekend

They might find it difficult to persuade new venues to take on the event in July, but if it remains at St James’ Park, the weekend just gone will prove a case study for why it is possible to hold the event even in the middle of pitch maintenance season.

August Bank Holiday

With the Challenge Cup final now moved from this week, could Magic Weekend take its place?

Finding a regular, annual slot would surely be a preferred option for organisers so that people can easily pinpoint the weekend to plan around each year.

As with some of the options though, the busyness of the start of the football season may make booking a venue difficult.

There may also be concerns that it’s too close to the Grand Final – though of course, the 2021 event was held in September.

On the move

Judging by the Jones’ comments, Newcastle is well and truly in pole position to retain hosting the event in 2023.

But could it make a return to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester? The home of Manchester City was a popular location, has plenty of space for fanzone activity and is of course closer to the heartlands.

The current cost of living crisis perhaps rules out any far flung destinations that have previously been linked with the event – the likes of Dublin or even Barcelona.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium proved extremely popular for the Challenge Cup final, though whether it would be cost effective to hold a whole weekend there is up for debate. It’s understood that the only reason the cup final could afford to be played there was due to a helping hand from Wembley, who had forced the cup final away from its traditional home due to a busy schedule.

Another venue closer to the heartland for consideration is the re-developed Anfield, which has held internationals and of course Magic Weekend back in 2019.

When and where would you like Magic Weekend to be held in 2023?

About James Gordon 7123 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

35 Comments

  1. Brilliant weekend again, if fans choice is a consideration it has to come back to Newcastle.
    RFL will no doubt want it a little more up market in London.

  2. I would have to say that Newcastle has now become the fan’s favourite, So this would be my choice as a neutral ground with ample accommodation and parking with easy access to ground.
    With references to timeline I personally think that the 2nd Saturday in July would be a perfect date to fit in with closed football season

  3. Newcastle again. They have everything you need just outside the stadium, you can walk from the City Centre or use public tpt.

  4. Newcastle for me, plenty around the stadium to do, welcoming locals – far enough away to feel like going for the weekend but not the distance of Cardiff or Edinburgh for most fans. Etihad or Liverpool would probably be just a day out to watch your own team , not a weekend

  5. It has to be Newcastle, with the combination of a City Centre venue, great facilities, a large number of pubs and restaurants (with a range of prices and cuisines) and a very broad range of accommodation on offer.

  6. Newcastle on a bank holiday weekend either May or August for 2023. Why not look at Everton’s new dockside stadium once it is built?

  7. Manchester middle of the Rugby league World great stadium easy to get to from anywhere and beginning of July fantastic time to hold it in my book alterative Paris at PSG stadium make it truly European

  8. scrap it along with loop fixtures, the lads play too much, then we might beat the aussies instead of being knackered.

  9. StJames Newcastle is the ideal place as its right in the city . Walking distance to the shops and restaurants Tottenham great first time experience for the challenge cup but there is nothing to do around the Stadium for Magic weekend when you might want to pick your matches and not sit in the stadium all day . The Summer bash is at Headingley again nothing to do round about . Blackpool is a Brilliant place too hold a rugby event . Hope the summer bash is back there next season . It could even hold the magic weekend if you moved from Newcastle.

  10. Ethiad for me. It was every bit as good as Newcastle when it was held there. It is a better stadium than St James Park. A short tram ride from the city centre. Nearer for almost all the clubs to get to.

  11. Newcastle for me.
    Great stadium and great atmosphere.
    Football mad city love the rugby fans and are made to feel so welcome.

  12. Move it back to the etihad stadium in Manchester Central for all. Not costing a fortune in car train bus . Or hotels.

  13. Keep it at Newcastle everything you need is there the locals love you being there if it ain’t broken don’t fix it

  14. The trouble with August is it is getting too close to the start of the football season, which kicks off in August, and pitches need time to be laid.

    If Newcastle is so fantastic (I doubt I’d ever go but I have been to Manchester – some people just can’t do that travel and the whole point of Magic, for me, is to spend all day and watch multiple matches, not travel to watch only your own team) then leave Newcastle with Magic and let it plod along until people get bored of it.

    Why not then consider putting on an international event at one of the other stadiums who are enquiring about staging a rugby league event?
    International rugby league is sparse so more games would not be bad. It doesn’t need to include the Southern Hemisphere teams, as logistics make this expensive and challenging and they already have their own matches.
    It could involve England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Jamaica or a Combined Nations Super League/Championship team. There could also be an England Women’s team game.

  15. I would say avoid bank holidays as train links are not so good due to track maintenance etc. but agree with most people comments that Newcastle seems to be a settled venue now. Why change something that works ?

  16. Problem with other venues is Cardiff – lack of hotels ; Edinburgh too far out for quick transfer into centre after the games , Manchester surrounding area when it was held there was under development might be better now but I did not feel it was “an event” , Liverpool was just the worst weekend – So Newcastle ticks all the boxes hotels , close to centre , great pubs , restaurants and night life.
    Timing of the event has to be at a Bank Holiday to allow people to watch the last game on Sunday without working out how late they are going to get home for work on Monday morning.

  17. It has to be Newcastle! What an amazing place it is the fan zone is spot on! The businesses around the area are so greatful for the crowds magic brings in, The staff in Newcastle are lovely and finally a city that doesn’t throw there prices up because “they know people will pay it” Make Newcastle the home of magic

  18. my brother as been to all 15 magic weekends he says newcastle is far the best .. a lot more going for it than any off the others. myself i have been to them all at newcastle its great for me.. have visited all the others but not when magic was on.

  19. I don’t like Magic format currently. Yes it is good for drawing large fans numbers, and probably biggest crowd some will play in front of. However Super League should just be play every other side home and away. Then turn Magic into 9’s competition, could even just have eight teams and knock comp over 2 days.

  20. Cardiff for me. Proper rugby stadiam.
    With retractable roof so it could be held more or less any month and the atmosphere is 2nd to none.
    Perfect city centre location.
    Plenty of accommodation.Lets fly the flag for rugby league in the Welsh capital again.
    Its a no brainer.

  21. Hampden Park, using the smaller adjoining Lesser Hampden stadium for other games simultaneously, especially women’s games.

  22. Newcastle, by far the best venue. I have been to Manchester three times and although the fan zone is better, St James’s has the City on its doorstep, the people welcome us with open arms, and the restaurants and pubs are all within easy reach. Taking the weekend back to Manchester and the heartlands just means that most fans only come for the day, then return home after their team has played. So Newcastle please, without doubt a cracking weekend. Thank you.

  23. Has to be Newcastle as brilliant locals who welcome the fans no stupid price increase in the pubs great transport and everything based in the city centre

  24. I have been to all venues other then Edinburgh, I go to see all 6 games due to where I live, I beleieve Newcastle is ideal as so many supporters travel and stop in Hotels adding to the money it brings to the region, other venues do not bring the monet to the region as o many supporters can treat it as a shrt day trip

  25. Here’s a stunner. Why not make St Helen’s or Wigan play last thing on the Sunday. Maybe then some of their fans might support the wider rugby league community and not bugger off home after their team plays first on Saturday.
    Or better still, make the French teams bring their share of fans to the party. But that ain’t gonna happen either. So I guess the combined fans from Hull will make up the numbers on the last day as usual.

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