PRO14 Rugby has reached an important agreement with the Italian Rugby Federation which means that two Italian teams will compete in the tournament until at least 2023 and that the Italian Federation will become a shareholder in Celtic Rugby, the business entity behind the tournament in the next 12 months.
The agreement in principle also extends to commitments around increased funding and upgrading of facilities for Benetton Rugby and Zebre Rugby Club.
Subject to the FIR fulfilling certain conditions, this new deal will represent a significant step forward for both Italian rugby and PRO14 Rugby and lays out a pathway to build upon the recent success of Benetton Rugby and Zebre Rugby Club in the Guinness PRO14.
In 2016 the two sides propped up the table with only eight wins between them. Last season that rose to 18 and Benetton Treviso currently lie third in their Conference.
“Being part of Guinness PRO14 is crucial to continue increasing the strength of elite rugby in Italy, and we are thrilled to be joining PRO14 Rugby on the same footing as our partners,” said Alfredo Gavazzi, FIR President.
“Right from the very start of my first stint as FIR President I underlined that the ambition of becoming a legitimate partner was vital, and I’m glad we’ve finally achieved it.”
“I’d wish to thank Martin Anayi and his organization for strongly believing in Italian rugby and I’m sure that this new deal will give a further boost to our participation, on and off the field.”
“Over the past three years the Guinness PRO14 has been transforming on and off the pitch and all of our stakeholders have played a key role in this success,” added Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby.
“Italian rugby has always offered great potential, but now in the past 12 months, we have seen tangible signs of that with both Benetton Rugby and Zebre enjoying record-win seasons in the Guinness PRO14 last season.
“I give great credit to Alfredo and the FIR for recruiting Conor O’Shea as national coach and his staff to drive up standards on the playing side and we have already seen the evidence of his influence at club level.”
“Our Championship needs 14 strong teams to ensure that we continue to offer exciting and competitive rugby to our supporters.”
“To see the FIR and its clubs begin to realise their ambitions is very encouraging and from that point of view it is only right that they should become a partner alongside the Welsh, Scottish and Irish unions.”