“We’re conscious that the Challenge Cup has lost its shine. It’s probably become our third biggest property. Magic Weekend has overtaken it in terms of fans and we’re conscious of that. There’s a lot we’ve got to sit down and discuss. We’ll look at all the available options and safeguard the event.”
Those are the words of Super League chief executive Roger Draper quoted in The Guardian newspaper earlier this week.
I had to read those words twice to actually believe that they hadn’t been planted by someone hostile to Rugby League.
Roger is an engaging person who speaks very openly about the issues involved in running Rugby League.
But I’m not sure it’s a good idea for someone in his position to publicly suggest that one of the game’s biggest events has lost its shine.
Gerald Ratner discovered many years ago that denigrating your own products is the quickest way to bankruptcy.
I wouldn’t put Roger’s comments in that category, but they are bad enough.
If our leading Rugby League officials don’t appear to believe in what they are selling, how can they market those events to the great British public.
And in any case I’m not sure I would accept his point about the Challenge Cup Final being overtaken by the Magic Weekend.
The RFL has also been struggling to sell tickets for this weekend’s extravaganza in Newcastle, with Draper himself suggesting that the total attendance will not grow from last year’s figures.
I find that very disappointing and unfortunately it’s yet another sign that the RFL seems unable to market its big events.
The Magic Weekend seems to have had very little promotion this season.
The RFL doesn’t seem to have publicised it, and the governing body certainly hasn’t advertised anywhere that it is happening, at least as far as I can see. The only advertising I’ve seen has been Newcastle Thunder advertising their game against York City Knights.
The RFL seems to be suggesting that the event is now in its third year in Newcastle and that Rugby League fans are getting a little tired of the venue.
I find that difficult to accept. I don’t think most fans would ever tire of going to Newcastle.
It’s a great city and an ideal venue for the Magic Weekend, especially as the stadium is so near to the centre of the city.
But who is encouraging us to go there? It’s almost as though the RFL wants to move away from Newcastle next season, and has already pulled up the shutters on the venue.
That doesn’t seem very smart to me.
Martyn Sadler is the editor of League Express. He writes his Talking Rugby League column every Monday in League Express.