Today (16th February), Widnes Vikings have revealed the design of their new Magic Weekend shirt with the help of Club captain, Kevin Brown, Newcastle United and England football legend, Peter Beardsley and representatives from a number of North East community rugby league clubs.
Once again, Widnes is supporting the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and last year the Vikings raised £20,000 for the cancer charity by donating profits from sales of their 2015 Magic Weekend shirts.
This year every £10 donation to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation made through the Vikings’ ‘Tackling Cancer…I’m on it!” campaign will be rewarded with the donors’ name printed into the fabric of their 2016 special edition Magic Weekend shirt.
The jersey will once again carry the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation logo in place of its primary sponsor and the team will run out at St James’ Park wearing the shirts in May. A further donation will be made to the charity from the shirt sales, too.
As well as helping to launch the new shirts, in the week Sir Bobby would have turned 83 (18th February), Peter Beardsley has also revealed he is continuing his role as Vikings Magic Weekend Ambassador, having offered his services to Widnes Vikings for a second year running.
Beardsley, who was the Vikings’ official Magic Weekend Ambassador for the inaugural event at St James’ Park, was thrilled accept this role for a second time.
Peter said: “What the Vikings did last year was incredible and would have made Sir Bobby very proud. The Vikings’ fans were brilliant at St James’ Park and the gesture that they made by supporting the initiative and raising so much money was phenomenal.
“I got a great deal of satisfaction from working with Widnes last year, it was a brilliant initiative. I took part in one of the community sessions at Walker Technology College with the Vikings’ coaches and players and it was brilliant.
“The attitude of the guys who took the session was something I’ve never really seen before. To see the coaches working and the players mixing with the kids was unbelievable.”
Rugby League is growing in popularity in the North East thanks in part to the success of the Magic Weekend and the interest created in Widnes Vikings’ support for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Talking about the 2015 First Utility Magic Weekend, Beardsley commented: “Without a doubt, last year’s Magic Weekend generated a massive appetite for Rugby League in the North East.
“Everybody I spoke to who went said the atmosphere was amazing and different to anything they had experienced before. I can honestly say I didn’t speak to anybody who didn’t have a great time.
“You look at the colours in the crowd, ‘mixing in’ as we call it, and it was incredible how people just got on and had a beer together, it didn’t matter who they supported they just joined in.
“I don’t know who came up with the name ‘Magic Weekend’ but everybody I’ve spoken to said it lived up to its name and I think the work that the Vikings did last year certainly helped generate a lot of local interest.
“We love our sport in the North East and I think that was shown with the attendance last year. I honestly think that this year the crowds will be even better.”
Vikings’ Marketing Director, Brian O’Connor, was equally thrilled to have the ‘Toon’ icon on board once again.
Brian said: “Peter was an integral part of our campaign last year and I think we are really lucky to not only have a sporting legend as our ambassador, but a true Rugby League fan with an extensive knowledge of the game.
“What I really love is that he gets just as excited as us and has contributed enormously to this year’s campaign. Peter was genuinely thrilled to be invited to continue his role as Club Ambassador.”
And Peter had a special message to all supporters who are taking part in the ‘Tackling Cancer…#ImOnIt’ campaign.
Peter added: “What an incredible thing to be a part of – I don’t know how the Vikings are going to fit all those names on to be honest but it’s a class idea.
“I would like to thank everybody who donates and I think anybody who gets a place on that shirt should feel really proud to support such a great cause.”
Kevin Brown, Captain of Widnes Vikings, said: “The relationship between the Vikings and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is very special. To me, the main reason is because I’ve been through a lot of troubles with cancer in my family and if we can make a tiny, tiny difference then I’ll be an extremely happy man.
“The fact that my son gets his name on my shirt is a bonus. It means when I’m playing I’ve got him close to me and that, and the black and white, is great but the main thing is the cancer charity and feeling like we can beat the disease together.
“The support we received from Tyneside at Magic Weekend last year was sort of unexpected. I’ve played all over, Wembley, Manchester City, Cardiff, and they’ve all been great but there’s something about this place that’s extra special and I think that’s the Geordies. They make it special because they’re absolutely passionate about sport.
“I looked up at the Gallowgate End when we came on to the pitch here last May and it was just full of fans and full of black and white. It was only after the game that we found out how many of them were Geordies and they were supporting us.
“We come up here, not just once every 12 months, we’re up here regularly trying to help out in the community along with Newcastle Thunder. If we can build the sport up here and give kids a bit of a smile on their faces then that’s a great bonus for us as well.”
Newcastle Thunder general manager, Keith Christie, who helped co-ordinate the North East launch commented:
“It’s great to be working with the Vikings in aid of a fabulous cause in the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. For the North East youngsters to have an opportunity to meet a Super League Captain of Kevin Brown’s status is a great experience for them and something they will never forget.
“It is opportunities such as this, and the return of the First Utility Magic Weekend to the North East, that will really help the sport to blossom in this region.”
To donate to the ‘Tackling Cancer #ImOnIt’ campaign and secure your place on the Vikings Special Edition Magic Weekend shirt please visit widnesvikings.co.uk.
There are only 3,000 spaces available so supporters are being encouraged to sign up quickly to ensure their names appear in the fabric of this exclusive garment alongside high-profile football and rugby supporters of the campaign including:
• Peter Beardsley
• Kevin Keegan
• Alan Shearer
• Ian Wright
• Gary Lineker
• Jonathan Davies
• Kevin Sinfield