Season gets off to a flier as rugby league chiefs eye Welsh repeat

Super League bosses believe the decision to launch the 2011 season with Millennium Magic has proved successful.

An aggregate crowd of 60,214 attended all seven round-one games over two days at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this weekend.

The figure represents an increase of 8,171 on the combined attendance at last year’s Magic fixtures, which were held in Edinburgh in May, and is the second-highest in the event’s history.

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It is the fifth-successive year a whole round of fixtures has been taken to one stadium but the changes of date and venue, as well as the reintroduction of derby fixtures, were made to reinvigorate the concept.

The event has certainly meant the season’s first games have made more of an impression than in recent years when, due to the World Club Challenge, isolated fixtures were brought forward to before the official season start date.

Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood said: “I think we were looking for something north of 50-55,000, maybe 60,000.

“But it’s not just about attendances – it’s about the spectacle and achieving some profile for the sport and delivering seven terrific encounters, which the players invariably do.

“Time will tell but it has certainly achieved more than some of the other early seasons we have had.

“I think there was widespread criticism of having situations where only one game stood out and the rest started in the week after.

“To get all 14 clubs at one venue across one weekend certainly gives everyone the chance to look at each other and brings the fans together in a celebration.

“Anyone who was out in the city Saturday night will have seen the kaleidoscope of colours that were worn.

“People enjoy coming to Cardiff and enjoy the hospitality it has to offer and they enjoy top-class rugby league. On the whole it has been a great weekend.”

Wood’s comments suggest the RFL would like to return to the Welsh capital again for the start of next season but no decision would be made without the agreement of clubs.

Wood said: “As always we will talk to the clubs, they have the primary say on how they want the event to go forward.

“And this year, of all years, with it being one for broadcast renewal, we will discuss with broadcasters and other stakeholders.

“But given what has happened this weekend we are very encouraged.”

The RFL have been encouraged by the support they have received from authorities in Wales such as national and local governments and stadium management, as well as the city of Cardiff.

Wood said: “I think it was with a certain amount of regret we left Cardiff in the first place, but that is not to say Edinburgh in itself isn’t a great destination or venue.

“Just from some of the banners and signage around the city, I think it is fairly evident it has been an all-embracing approach and that is what you want in your partnership.

“We can always rely on 14 teams turning up and delivering high-quality action and we can also rely on 14 sets of supporters coming and behaving and having a good weekend.

“I am sure the city council and the Welsh tourist board would be really keen to repeat that situation.”