Leeds Rhinos chief welcomes chance to go to Toon

Gary Hetherington.
Gary Hetherington.
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LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington has welcomed Super League’s decision to go to Toon.

Governing body the RFL today confirmed next year’s Magic Weekend – which sees an entire Super League round staged at one venue over two days – will be held at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park.

The last three Magic Weekends have been held at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, but that is unavailable next May due to building work.

The event will take place on Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31, with three matches each day.

Super League and Kingstone Press Championship fixtures for 2015 are due to be revealed next month, with the Magic Weekend programme announced in November.

Hetherington said: “I was disappointed to hear the Etihad won’t be able to host it next year, but the choice of Newcastle is an outstanding one.

“It is a great venue. St James’ Park is a terrific sports stadium, which holds 50,000 fans and from a location point of view it could not be better.

“It is right in the middle of a vibrant and visitor-friendly city and for us at Leeds, after having made several trips to Cardiff, is it very reachable.

“From that point of view it is

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ideal for Leeds Rhinos fans.”

Next year’s event will be the ninth Magic Weekend and Hetherington said he is a “big fan” of the concept.

“I think the Etihad has established itself as an ideal venue over the last few years,” he added.

“This year’s event was probably the best we’ve had, the event is growing and it is a great opportunity for the whole rugby league family to come together and show itself in a quality way.

“The players really enjoy it and the fans do as well and the only disappointment is that we really need to get another 20,000 people there over the weekend.

“Not enough people have attended, quite honestly, but even so it has developed into one of the highlights of the rugby league calendar.”

The Leeds chief insists he is not concerned the extra game at Magic Weekend could give certain clubs an advantage, if they face weaker opposition than their rivals.

“That is becoming less of a problem because of the levelling out of the Super League competition,” he said.

“If it is done on the same basis as this year – putting together teams who at the start of the season would be seen as pretty much 50-50 – I don’t think anybody can have any real concerns.”

Castleford Tigers chief executive Steve Gill has also welcomed the move.

He said: “I think it will be great, it is a magnificent stadium and I think it will attract neutral support.”

Previous Magic Weekends have been held in Cardiff and Edinburgh, as well as Manchester.

Super League general manager Blake Solly said: “St James’ Park is one of Britain’s iconic sporting stadiums and Newcastle is a fantastic destination city that will provide the perfect backdrop to the First Utility Super League Magic Weekend.

“From all our engagement with Newcastle United, Newcastle City Council, NE1 and other agencies, it is clear the region will welcome rugby league fans with open arms and I have no doubts Magic Weekend 2015 will be a huge success.

“We did receive interest in staging Magic Weekend from a number of other venues, but none provided as good a fit as Newcastle for many reasons, including its transport links, hotel and accommodation options and opportunities for our fans to enjoy a weekend to remember.”

Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “I’m delighted Newcastle has been chosen to host Magic Weekend which will bring additional investment to the city.

“Newcastle has a proven track record of hosting large scale sporting events. With so much to do here and our famous hospitality, visitors are guaranteed a fantastic experience and a taste of Geordie Magic.”

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