As rugby league fans prepare to descend on Newcastle for a fourth successive year, the possibility has emerged of the annual Dacia Magic Weekend being taken overseas.
The two-day extravaganza in which all 12 Betfred Super League clubs play for points at the same venue has proved a significant money-spinner with Newcastle tourism chiefs estimating an aggregate crowd of around 65,000 to be worth in excess of £4million for the local economy.
Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester all hosted the Magic Weekend before it went to St James’ Park in 2015 and Newcastle fought off competition from London and Coventry to retain the event for 2018.
Now Super League general manager Mark Foster says two overseas cities have expressed an interest in hosting the event in 2019.
“We’ve already started to think about next year,” said Foster at the launch at St James’ Park on Monday attended by players from all 12 clubs.
“We’re speaking to four or five different venues at the moment which will all enter into the mix for next year.
“I would say the difference this year is that hosting Magic is worldwide now, that’s the interesting thing for me.
“We’ve cities from around the world now that would like to host the Magic event.”
The likelihood is that Magic Weekend will remain in the UK but Foster says the arrival of Toronto and the successful staging of a Super League match in Australia by Wigan in February opened up new possibilities.
“Clearly, if you take it outside the UK, you have to consider the fans and suddenly an increase in expense but you look at what Wigan and Hull did in Wollongong at the start of this season and the number of fans that travelled and had a great occasion down there, I think that has opened the eyes of cities around the world,” Foster said.
“Obviously we have Toronto who are in the Championship at the moment and hoping to get promotion and we’re taking the England game over to Denver so there is a number of ongoing conversations around North America to make the most of what opportunities there are.
“We will need to sit down with both Newcastle United and our partners that we’ve got in the north-east to assess how successful Magic is for everybody and we do a fans survey that goes out straight after the event so we get the supporters’ feedback.”
The Magic Weekend has been such a success that Australia plan to follow suit with a full round of NRL matches pencilled in for Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in 2019.
“We’ve spoken to them about it in the past and they certainly took learnings from what we’ve done with the Magic Weekend,” Foster said.
“We’ve known for a couple of years that they’ve been interested in staging a similar event and it does look like next year is a likely opportunity for them.”
Organisers are hoping the return of the Hull derby will enable them to top last year’s 65,407 attendance, which was the third highest since its inception in 2007.
Fans attending the event on Saturday will have the bonus of an extra match following the invitation to Toronto to play their Betfred Championship match against Toulouse as a curtain-raiser.