The Garry Schofield Column: Elland Road just won’t work for Magic Weekend

WHY, why, why?

I think the RFL need to open up and give a far more detailed explanation of the decision to take Magic Weekend to Elland Road as well as shunting it on to August.

That in itself poses a problem if it is going to go to a football stadium, because their season is getting started, so it may already be in use, and you’d imagine many clubs would be concerned about six games taking place on their pitch in close succession without it having the chance to recover.

Neither scenario applies if Magic Weekend happens earlier in the calendar, as it usually does, but by having it in August, you’d imagine the possible places to go would be fewer.

The RFL say St James’ Park at Newcastle, which has proved an appealing, hospitable and popular venue in the past – and you can see that by looking at the attendances – is unavailable, and that’s a big shame, because for me, it’s the best place the event has been in terms of venues, the proximity of other attractions and the ease of getting to it.

If it’s unavailable, it’s unavailable, but then why not find another venue which provides the chance to spread the Rugby League word and give supporters the opportunity of a day out, or weekend away, somewhere they wouldn’t ordinarily go to watch a match, or matches?

After all, that was the whole point of introducing the concept back in 2007, when it went to Cardiff before a stint in Edinburgh.

Now we have Leeds, and as much as I love my home city, I have to say it’s an unappealing choice for something like Magic Weekend, and virtually everyone I’ve spoken to about it agrees.

Elland Road, a football stadium which somehow is available – and quite a few Leeds United fans I know are questioning what effect it might have on the turf – is pretty cramped if you’re watching one, never mind multiple matches, a little out of the way in terms of the city centre, and not particularly well served by public transport.

There’s not much around the ground in terms of providing food and drink – Headingley scores far better on that front – which means fans who want a pie and a pint, or youngsters going for pop and a hot dog, will probably end up purchasing within the stadium, and we all know about those prices.

In addition, many supporters of Super League clubs already come to the city, if not Elland Road, once a season in any case, so there is little in the way of novelty value.

It reminds me of the move during the Robert Elstone days to take Magic Weekend to Anfield, a ground which has similar issues to Elland Road in terms of location and local amenities.

The turn-out dropped significantly, and it didn’t go back there.

Surely there’s a lesson to be learned there, and it seems the RFL is failing to read the room.

If Magic Weekend isn’t working commercially, and this is a step towards phasing it out, as has been suggested, then why not just do it instead of letting it linger in Leeds and, in my view, failing to give the event the respect it deserves.

Whatever the situation, supporters should be told in more detail why the date is being changed (and while we’re on that subject, there’s too much of that going on when we need to establish a seasonal calendar which works and is far more fixed), which other venues were considered, and just why Elland Road was arrived at as the best option.