Magic Weekend may head to France... but not in 2020

Catalans Dragons have no plans to return to the Nou Camp but have asked Super League to take the Magic Weekend to France.
Wigan players step foot on the Camp Nou pitchWigan players step foot on the Camp Nou pitch
Wigan players step foot on the Camp Nou pitch

The Dragons drew a Super League record crowd of 31,555 to Barcelona for their game against Wigan in May and, although they do not intend to return to Spain in 2020, they are hoping Super League will help them spread the game in France.

"Catalans Dragons are really keen to see whether we can accommodate the Magic Weekend in France and they've got a couple of ideas they're working on," chief executive Robert Elstone told the PA news agency.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"They're not going to be ready for 2020 but I'm really excited about what the Dragons and us jointly can deliver going forward for Magic.

"I think Nou Camp was remarkable and, for one club to take on that risk and responsibility, I think Super League owes them a debt of gratitude and we should celebrate their entrepreneurialism.

"But I know it placed a huge burden on the club so I don't blame them for not being as ambitious in 2020 but they are showing great ambition about taking the game into different parts of France via Magic."

The 13th Magic Weekend was held for the first time at Anfield in May and, despite only a modest aggregate crowd of 56,869, looks likely to remain there for 2020. An announcement is expected in early October.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We have real competition for Magic as an event from a couple of very serious venues - today there was a conversation with another venue in the south of England - and we will be putting a recommendation to clubs before the end of the month," Elstone said.

"A lot will depend on the commercial deal but I'm a firm believer in Magic being used to celebrate Super League and being refreshed on a regular basis by taking it to new areas.

"Anfield and St James' are very keen to stage Magic in 2020 and my personal preference will be to stay at Anfield and see it build over at least one or two more years."

As he comes to the end of his first full year at the head of Super League, Elstone says the sport is in good shape but believes it could take a multi-million investment from private equity to take it to the next level.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The priority is growing the profits of Super League," he said. "Short term that means the Grand Final attendance and it's also about new sponsors and corporate partners and the next TV deal.

"Beyond that new investment potential could be transformational if it's brought it in a way that works for the investor and the clubs."

Elstone says his organisation is closely watching the progress of Premiership Rugby, which sold a minority shareholding to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for a reported £230million in December 2018, and is aware that other firms have bought stakes in Formula One, football and Moto GP.

"We're right at the start of that journey," he said. "No formal engagement has been made however there is a lot of work ongoing to see if we can find a partner that will help transform the sport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Potentially it could be very exciting. We have a duty to look at it and, if we deliver it, it could be fantastic for Super League."

In addition to the bumper crowd at the Nou Camp, Elstone presided over a record Easter aggregate attendance of 79,173 and says five clubs - Salford, St Helens, Catalans Dragons, Warrington and Hull KR - have reported their highest increase in attendances over the last five seasons.

Elstone expects to drop the second Easter fixture for 2020 and is working with the Catalans in their efforts to find a new television broadcaster for next season, when Super League will celebrate its 25th anniversary.