GARETH WALKER welcomes the decision to take a full round of Championship fixtures to Blackpool in 2015.
Last week’s announcement that the Kingstone Press Championship will take an entire round of fixtures to Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road is great news for the sport at this level.
The newly titled Kingstone Press Championship Summer Bash will take place over the Bank Holiday weekend, Saturday May 23 and Sunday May 24 of next year.
In an added bonus, League Express revealed on Monday that all six matches could be screened live by Sky Sports as part of their new coverage of the Championships.
Blackpool was always a popular and successful venue for the Northern Rail Cup between 2005 and 2012, so a return there for another stand-alone event for the sport at this level looks a wise move.
As with Super League’s Magic Weekend, the round of fixtures at the Summer Bash will be in addition to the regular home and away matches.
How those fixtures will be chosen has yet to be decided, but a considered selection – as happens in Super League – would appear the best way to go.
Some artistic licence is needed here as we obviously don’t know the 12 teams in the competition yet, but Bradford Bulls versus Halifax would seem one of several sensible options.
Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers have built up a significant rivalry in recent seasons, which could become the equivalent of the Wigan-Leeds showdown we saw at the Etihad Stadium.
Then there could be the Heavy Woollen derby between Batley Bulldogs and Dewsbury Rams, and Whitehaven against Workington Town if both West Cumbrian teams manage to stay in the Championship.
Similarly, Sheffield Eagles against Doncaster would provide plenty of interest for both sets of supporters, though who faces relegation certainties London Broncos is less obvious.
What should also be welcomed is the RFL’s attempt to recreate the kind of family atmosphere around the ground that has been such a strength of the Magic weekends, particularly when at the Etihad Stadium.
As well as three matches on each day, the Summer Bash will include live music, a Fanzone, social media interactions and on-pitch entertainment.
The 2015 Kingstone Press Championship Summer Bash fixtures, and details of ticket prices and availability, will be announced later this year.
The event also throw up one interesting issue.
When I criticised the decision to take the Northern Rail Cup away from Blackpool in 2013, one of the reasons given by the governing body was that Bloomfield Road couldn’t accommodate the switch to two matches on finals day.
That would make staging an event with six matches over two days a strange move.
But the RFL has confirmed that temporary dressing rooms will be installed next year. It should all add up to a terrific weekend for Championship supporters.
Gareth Walker is the Championship correspondent of League Express and also writes a weekly Championship Focus column in the newspaper.
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