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Friday, December 1, 2023

Rugby League’s magic weekend set to return in 2024, Newcastle Council commits.

Council bosses are “fully committed” to bringing rugby league’s Magic Weekend back to Newcastle in 2024.

The future of the showpiece event, held seven times at St James’ Park since 2015, had been in question under plans for a restructure of the sport.

But, after more than 63,000 fans flocked to Newcastle for the two-day spectacle earlier this month, the rugby league’s governing body is thought to be keen on bringing it back once again.

Labour Councillor, Alex Hay, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member responsible for culture, told colleagues last week that the authority was “keen to take the steps necessary” to ensure Magic Weekend’s return after a “resounding success” this year.

He said: “It is worth noting that, until recently, rugby league’s Super League had indicated that this year would mark the final Magic Weekend. However, given the success of this year’s event, Magic Weekend has expressed an interest in returning next year.

“With support of the Super League clubs, there is a renewed desire to bring this fantastic event back to Newcastle.”

At a full council meeting last Wednesday, Cllr Hay confirmed that rugby league bosses were  “keen to secure St James’ Park” and were hopeful of putting a date in the 2024 calendar soon.

Labour Councillor, Alex Hay Image: Newcastle City Council

There have been questions over when that might be – with the Rugby Football League reported to be planning to move Magic Weekend to another time of year, potentially creating a clash with Newcastle United’s football season.

Responding to a question from Liberal Democrat Greg Stone, Cllr Hay said: “If these arrangements can be made, the council is fully committed to allocating the necessary budget to support the event alongside working with the football club, the North of Tyne Combined Authority, and Super League.

“As an administration, we recognise the importance of fostering partnerships with organisations that align with our priorities – and Magic Weekend undoubtedly falls into that category. Therefore we will continue to work collaboratively to ensure Newcastle continues to host Magic Weekend in the years to come.”

Cllr Stone praised the behaviour of the “good natured” supporters and the “family-friendly” nature of the Magic Weekend atmosphere, adding that there would be cross-party support on the council for its return.

Rhodri Jones, the managing director of RFL commercial, said earlier this month that he hoped a decision would be made by the end of June, but conceded that a change of date would make the availability of St James’ more difficult.

Managing Director at RL Commercial & International RL Director, Rhodri Jones Image: Linkedin

Mr Jones said: “Probably the biggest challenge is availability of city and stadium. A stadium like (St James’ Park) in June or July doesn’t have a pitch, and in August they will be a

Champions League club, so we’ve got some hurdles to overcome in general.
“I can’t give a definitive answer about the future of Magic, but it’s something we are definitely looking at for next year.”

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