Dave Craven – Why Barcelona’s Nou Camp could work as future Magic Weekend host

WHETHER the Magic still remains or not, it is time for everybody to simply embrace Magic Weekend. For two days, at least.

NEW HOST: Catalans' Tony Gigot kicks for goal against Wigan last weekend. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
NEW HOST: Catalans' Tony Gigot kicks for goal against Wigan last weekend. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

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Unfortunately, much of the build-up to the event has centred on whether ticket sales will flounder on its first visit to Liverpool and why it should have stayed in Newcastle at St James’ Park.

Rugby league loves a bit of angst and traditionally has found plenty of ways to shoot itself in the foot.

Players from each team on the Anfield pitch ahead of Magic Weekend.

But let’s please save the inquest for AFTER the action at Anfield rather than before.

As innovative as the sport loves to be, writing off an event before it has even occurred is a new-fangled initiative that it can do without. Perhaps it is simply the modern-way and, with social media’s ability to offer everyone the chance to instantly express an opinion to a wider audience, maybe this now will always be the case.

However, it is certainly futile. A decision was made some time ago to take the bonanza to Liverpool – whether it be for commercial, expansion or accessibility reasons – and leave Newcastle who have proved wonderful hosts for the last four years.

Maybe there was a little extra cash involved, maybe Super League did not want to return to the Toon just a fortnight after rugby union’s European competition held their premier finals there or maybe organisers thought they had mined as much as they could from previously untapped north-east support.

It remains to be seen whether, after this year’s event, there will be a Magic Weekend at all in future campaigns.

Certainly, if it fails to make a profit for Super League – now in control, rather than the RFL – its clubs will have good reason to hit it on the head.

However, there is so much to be liked about it, it is hard to imagine it not continuing again.

Yes, it may need tweaking and, yes, it might need freshening up but even the Australians are following suit and running their own Magic show now so it must be doing something right.

And making ‘events’ has to be the way forward for the sport.

A cursory glance at the extended coverage attained for Catalans Dragons’ game against Wigan Warriors at the Nou Camp a week ago, not to mention the record crowd of almost 32,000, shows the merits of that.

It may take some time for Catalans to gauge the overall benefit of such profile and publicity but, undoubtedly, it will do wonders for the game in their region and only enhance the competition as a whole.

The idea has been floated that Magic should head to Barcelona next, or somewhere similarly exotic like Toulouse.

Whether that is plausible remains to be seen but, given the numbers of Wigan fans who ventured out there for the historic match – around 4,000 it is estimated – a rudimentary calculation would suggest it could be viable especially if a big cheque was in place, too.

Hull FC, like Wigan, showed they would travel in numbers to the other side of the world for last year’s Super League show in Wollongong. Leeds headed to Melbourne.

Making the trip to Spain would certainly be far cheaper and more accessible for many.

For now, though, it is Liverpool. Let’s hope people will ignore the negativity and go along and give it a try.

Six games over two days, stellar players to watch, an iconic stadium to experience and a wonderful city to explore.

What is not to like?