Newcastle is renowned for its warm Geordie welcome and knowing how to stage large iconic events so when we were looking for a new host city for the 10th Rugby League Magic Weekend, we didn’t take much persuading to bring the party to the city.
With the Man City Etihad stadium closed for refurbishment we knew last year that we had to take the show on the road.
We’ve done it before and know it works – Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester have all staged the weekend but we wanted to find somewhere new, where we could deliver not just a new crowd of supporters but where we could convert generations of people to the delights of Magic Weekend and encourage thousands of new supporters to attend, watch and play rugby league.
Newcastle is an ideal and very fertile breeding ground, renowned for its sporting passion and with a unique stadium that is in the enviable position at the heart of the city.
Everyone raves about Newcastle and I must say we haven’t been disappointed. We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received from NE1 Ltd, NUFC and the city council.
It was their collective and coordinated approach that helped sway our decision to bring Magic Weekend to the city.
There were two other contender cities interested in hosting the event but when we opted for Newcastle we were overwhelmed by the response from clubs, players, coaches and fans all echoing our excitement. Together we are all delighted that we’re heading north and bringing Magic Weekend to the city.
Our players want to play on the big stage and you don’t get much bigger or better than St James’ Park – we want to recreate the atmosphere of a home game and give it a distinct Magic flavour.
For anyone who hasn’t been to a Magic Weekend, or doesn’t watch rugby league, this event is still something you’ll want to see and be part of…it is often said that Magic Weekend is a two-day party with a bit of rugby in between.
People have a tendency to come to a Magic Weekend and fall in love with the sport. It is fast moving and simple to understand and the event provides tremendous value for money - you don’t just get to watch one game of rugby, you get a bundle of entertainment thrown in including live music, fan zones, family areas and activities set against a backdrop of multiple rugby league games played out with passion and aggression on the pitch.
Sixteen hours of rugby, three matches each day over two days – it’s fast and furious and a great weekend for spectators and for the host city.
When the Magic weekend caravan rolls into town – it will bring with it over 67,000 fans and spectators delivering a major boost to the local economy.
This is a prime opportunity for businesses to get behind the weekend and market to fans both before they come and when they are here.
The supporters are a tremendously loyal and passionate band of followers who love a weekend away and if local businesses are seen to support Magic, they will get returns in spadefuls.
Hotels are already seeing the benefits with bookings up for the weekend and the city will be showcased nationally and internationally via Sky Sports coverage of Magic and all its associated activities over the course of the weekend.
There’ll be no missing that Magic is in town. A week before the weekend, we’ll tip up and there’ll be a big presence in the city with events and activities to get the party started.
We’re hosting a community day the week before the games working with Newcastle Thunder and with grass roots rugby clubs to encourage young kids to get in to the sport.
Then the tidal wave of fans will hit the Friday before and the fun will really start.
The city will have a carnival atmosphere, especially around St James’ Park – our sponsors like to make their presence felt and engage with the fans during Magic, which is the biggest event in the Superleague calendar.
We already know that the city is getting behind Magic Weekend, of the 30,000 tickets already sold, a third are from within the North East and there is a growing passion and interest in rugby. Magic Weekend will be an exciting opener for the city’s year of rugby with the World Cup following in our wake later in the year.
In the run-up to Magic at the end of May, we’ll be working with our Super League teams and with the organisations on the ground who helped bring the event to the city, to deliver the best event yet and for Newcastle to add a colourful new chapter in the history of Magic.
Magic Weekend will take place at St James’ Park on May 30 & 31, 2015. Readers can buy tickets from www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk
Blake Solly is Super League General Manager and supporter of NE1 Ltd.