Magic Weekend set for record low crowd

Players at Anfield today
Players at Anfield today

The annual Magic Weekend is set to draw a record low crowd on its first visit to Liverpool but Super League insists it will break even.

Rhodri Jones, chief commercial officer for Super League, is expecting a crowd of around 50,000 over the two days at Anfield.

The home of Liverpool Football Club drew 40,042 for the 2016 Four Nations final between Australia and New Zealand but just 26,234 watched the second Test between England and New Zealand there last November, and there are fears this year's Magic Weekend will struggle to reach the previous aggregate low of 52,043 at Murrayfield in 2010.

"There's still some work to be done," Jones said. "We've done alright in the last week and we're hopeful there is a late surge as there was at the Etihad, where we sold circa 15,000 tickets in the last two weeks.

"We'll be around 50,000 I think by the time we come around to the end of Sunday which will be slightly below aspirations and expectations but you've got to think of the positives out of it all.

"It's an amazing stadium which will give the players a first-class experience, and 50,000 people are going to have a great weekend."

A deal put together jointly by the local authority and Liverpool FC helped persuade Super League to take the event away from Newcastle's St James' Park, which has hosted the event for the last four years and staged rugby union's European Cup finals earlier this month.

Not surprisingly given their geographical location and the outstanding form of the teams, Warrington and St Helens top the ticket sales, ahead of Hull and Wigan, with Catalans Dragons and London bringing up the rear.

"The clubs keep all the revenue from the tickets they sell so there's a bit of a challenge for them," Jones added.

"All the tickets we sell centrally cover the cost of putting the weekend on so Super League will break even and the clubs gain the benefit of the tickets they sell.

"We worked really hard on the local market in Newcastle and I think last year we probably saw the peak of that.

"Coming to Liverpool, we kind of have to start all over again and over the course of time you like to think the community gets more engaged."

The deal with Anfield is for 2019 and Jones says Super League will consult with fans before settling on a venue for 2020, with London inevitably coming into consideration.

Tottenham's new stadium, which was considered by 2021 World Cup organisers before they opted for the Emirates Stadium, has been mooted as a potential venue.

"It's a nice way to be referenced because people see Magic Weekend as a desirable event but we've not had any conversation with Tottenham yet," Jones said.

"We have a contractual commitment with Liverpool to review here after this year and, if we are both going in the same direction, we'll be back here next year but at the moment we'll see how the weekend goes first."