Rugby League

Magic Weekend under threat as Super League looks at fixture options

Magic Weekend could be among the first casualties of the Super League season as clubs discuss ways to complete the campaign once government guidelines allow.

Magic – which sees an entire weekend’s fixtures move to one venue – has been a part of every Super League season since 2007 and is scheduled to return to St James’ Park on May 23 and 24.

But uncertainty surrounding the stadium’s availability once sport is able to return – and how much time would be available to fulfil other fixtures – means it is among measures that could be shelved.

Chief executive Robert Elstone said: “It hasn't been totally ruled out to date, but we're preparing for the fact that Magic may well be a casualty of this. Without making financial commitments, we're trying to keep our options open.

“The big quandary is how long is this going to last, and it would be unwise not to think about Magic at a later date in Newcastle or in a different format, we don't know.

“Right now we haven't ruled it out and fixture planning is looking at the possibility it might happen. But you might look at the probability of it happening as diminishing all the time, though.

“There's lots of work going on in terms of fixture planning and that involves pushing the season back. Obviously Manchester United and other partners, we need support from.

“Right now it's impossible to know how long this suspension period will last, but we're looking at a variety of scenarios that means when it does it get lifted, we're in a good place to start quickly and fulfil as many of our seasonal obligations as we can.”

The controversial loop fixtures – extra games to the home and away schedule that provide clubs with additional revenue – are also being discussed, although Elstone says they will be protected “as long as we can”.

The priority for him and the competition has been ensuring dialogue with key backers Sky remains at the forefront of their attention.

Elstone added: “The Sky contract is quite probably our number one priority from a financial and economic point of view. We have a good relationship with Sky.

“We had a more formal meeting with them on the phone on Monday and we're just pledging our support to them. They know that there are some real material limitations in what we can and can't do right now.

“Right now we're unable to do anything in terms of meaningful content, and they're a business that are reviewing the implications of this. While we have a close relationship we have to respect that Sky are looking at what this means for them.

“Our intention is to ensure we honour that Sky contract and fulfil our obligations, it's the most important thing we can do.”

Elstone confirmed clubs have discussed using the government scheme of paying employees 80 percent of their salary, although that is only to the maximum of £2,500 a month.

The sport also remains in talks with the government about additional funding to secure its future.

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