When the Magic Weekend concept was moved from Manchester City's Etihad Stadium to Newcastle's St James' Park for the 2015 season, Rugby League fans were unsure whether it could be as successful. Wind the clock forward four years and the north-east is still the home of one of the sport's showpiece events.

Whilst crowds had been growing steadily for the weekend ever since it made the move from Edinburgh and then Cardiff to Manchester in 2012, Newcastle has been by far the most popular destination. Though, in 2017, the Rugby Football League (RFL) seemed keen to give another city the chance of hosting for the 2018 season, the hierarchy were swayed by the intense support for Newcastle to continue as its home.


The Magic Weekend concept first came into being in September 2006 to be played in May 2007. It was a new-fangled idea whereby all 12 - and later 14 - Super League sides toughed it out on the same weekend in six rounds of Super League. RFL Chairman at the time Richard Lewis announced that the weekend would be hosted in Cardiff as a bid to expand the game into Wales, but to also produce a much-needed monetary boost to the sport as a whole.

The event was funded and promoted by the Welsh Tourist Board who were looking to build on the rather successful Challenge Cup finals which had taken place in Cardiff between 2003 and 2005 due to the rebuilding of the famous Wembley Stadium. 58,000 spectators over the course of Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 of May piled into Cardiff's Millennium Stadium - it was a roaring success.

As a result, the Magic Weekend became an annual fixture in the Super League calendar.


Though Cardiff had been a success, a move to Edinburgh in 2009 stifled the interest somewhat. In the Scottish capital's last year as host in 2010, the crowd at Murrayfield fell to a disappointing 52,000. The use of a seeded draw for the two years in Edinburgh rather than local rivalries being played out also led to fan dissatisfaction with the likes of Catalans playing Leeds and Warrington doing battle against Hull KR.

A relocation back to Cardiff in 2011 as well as the decision to allow local rivals go head-to-head, sparked fans' interest once more - over the two days, 8,000 more spectators flocked to the Millennium Stadium than had at Murrayfield the previous year. Still, it was time for an evolution of the Magic Weekend and bringing it to the heart of Rugby League - Manchester - seemed a shrewd choice.

The 2012 Magic Weekend witnessed the biggest crowd since the concept began - nearly 64,000 fans made the journey to Manchester City's Etihad Stadium. 2013 and 2014 were successes also, but the RFL decided to relocate yet again in 2015 - this time to Newcastle after the Etihad was declared unavailable for May 2015.

In a region where football is definitely number one, supporters questioned why the governing body was trying to infiltrate into an area where the sport had little to no foundation at all. The RFL is often heavily criticised by fans - most of it just deserved - but taking the concept to Newcastle has to go down as one if its most inspired moves yet.

Embraced the Toon

Rugby League fans swelled to the north-east in May 2015 with a record attendance being set over the two days.

Nearly 68,000 spectators flocked to St James' Park that year and though this dropped to 65,000 last season, Newcastle has held the top three attendances since the Magic Weekend was created in 2007. But, why is this?

The city itself is vibrant and the night life is second to none. It's a chance for Rugby League fans to escape for the weekend to a place that they would not visit during the season, but because its not as far away as Scotland or Wales, the apathy of just isn't there. The stadium is brilliant on match days and there is tons to do in the city itself. Magic Weekend has really found a home in Newcastle - a city which the likes of Coventry just cannot compete with.

Some critics may argue that the concept should be taken to different parts of the country to expand the sport's brand, but Newcastle still has the magic to deliver a successful weekend. It is only when this magic starts to disappear that the RFL should think about moving it once more.