Benetton Treviso and Zebre Rugby have secured their future in the PRO14 until at least 2023.
Italian rugby has been given a major boost with the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) to become a shareholder in Celtic Rugby “in the coming year” which has, in turn, handed guarantees to the two clubs over their participation.
Currently the PRO14 Rugby Championship and is owned equally by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
In a joint statement the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) and PRO14 Rugby say they have “an agreement in principle”, with the FIR having to fulfil “certain conditions”.
Both Treviso and Zebre have had an upturn in results, notably last season when Zebre achieved their highest ever number of wins in a season with seven, while Treviso registered 11 wins.
The deal will also means there will be increased investment in the teams with a statement saying there would be “commitments around increased funding and upgrading of facilities for the clubs”
Alfredo Gavazzi, FIR President, said: “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. 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 organisation 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.”
Martin Anayi, PRO14 Rugby CEO, said: “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. 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.”
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