The Etihad Stadium in Manchester will host a full round of Super League fixtures in May next year when Rugby League’s Magic Weekend moves to the home of Manchester City FC in 2012.
Local rivalries will again take centre stage for the Round 15 matches over the weekend of May 26 and 27 which will provide one of many highlights of the 2012 Super League season.
The RFL today published full details of the fixture list for the 2012 season, which kicks off on Friday February 3 and climaxes with the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday October 6.
“I’m delighted to confirm that Rugby League is returning to the Etihad Stadium next May for Magic Weekend and two days of sporting action of the highest order,” said RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
“On the only previous occasion Rugby League has been played at this iconic venue we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback from supporters who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The Magic Weekend continues to grow in stature and popularity and I’m sure the move to the Etihad Stadium will take the event to the next level after the success of previous Magic Weekends in Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Steve Sayer, Operations Director for Manchester City FC, said: “We consider it a real honour to host the Magic Weekend and we’re delighted to welcome Rugby League back to the Etihad Stadium.
“At Manchester City we are treated to top quality football week in week out and we are certain that this Super League showpiece will prove similarly enjoyable for the fans of all the participating clubs.”
Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure for Manchester City Council, said: “The North West has a tremendous Rugby League tradition and we expect to welcome tens of thousands of fans to Manchester for the Magic Weekend.
“This promises to provide yet another boost for Manchester’s economy and adds to what is shaping up to be a fantastic sporting 2012 for the city.
“Super League’s Magic Weekend is a fantastic addition to our busy calendar for next year, which already features many other national and international sporting events, including Olympic football at Old Trafford Stadium.”
The schedule for Magic Weekend 2012 will be confirmed in the New Year following consultation with Super League’s broadcast partners Sky Sports and the Etihad Stadium, which last hosted a Rugby League match in October 2004 when over 40,000 people saw Australia defeat Great Britain in the Tri-Nations tournament.
The opening weekend of the 2012 season sees champions Leeds Rhinos begin their title defence with a home match against Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday February 3, when Super League newcomers Widnes Vikings begin their life in the top tier with a home game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The following day sees the newly-built City of Salford Stadium hosts its first competitive fixture as Salford City Reds play Castleford Tigers and at the Twickenham Stoop newly-renamed London Broncos face 2011 beaten Grand Finalists St Helens.
On Sunday February 5, Hull FC face Warrington Wolves, Carnegie Challenge Cup winners Wigan Warriors host Huddersfield Giants and Bradford Bulls entertain Super League Club of the Year Catalan Dragons.
The highlight of Round Two is the first match at the new Langtree Park Stadium where St Helens face Salford in the first game at their new £26m 18,000-capacity home.
In Round Three, Wakefield are without a fixture because of Leeds Rhinos’ involvement in the Heinz Big Soup World Club Challenge against NRL champions Manly Sea Eagles at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Friday February 17.
All 14 clubs take a break from Super League action over the weekend of April 14 and 15, when they enter the Carnegie Challenge Cup at the fourth round stage. The 2012 Carnegie Challenge Cup campaign culminates in the final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 25.
The Super League clubs also have a blank weekend on June 17 when attention turns to representative action with a scheduled international weekend, details of which will be announced shortly.