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Italia RFL - 2011 in Review

This year was the first full year for the Italia Rugby Football League in focusing on Rugby League development and growth for the code in Italy.
Italia RFL - 2011 in Review
by NRL

This year was the first full year for the Italia Rugby Football League in focusing on Rugby League development and growth for the code in Italy.

Expansion and additional participation and competitions were two key developmental targets for the year with expansion to a more national level eventuating for the re-branded Italian Championship to the 'r-Evolution League' recognising rugby league's roots from the 1895 revolt in Northern England that formed rugby league and an evolution of rugby league from the first rugby code. Expansion into Padova (Jaguars XIII based in Valaguna) and Reggio Emilia (Rex Albinea RL) were involved for the summer 'r'Evolution League on top of existing club's in Rome, Florence and Catania with more matches being played over the regular season.

A new competition for the winter was implemented with the first Coppa Italia Rugby a XIII being played that can be defined as a knockout second tier cup for Italy (reserve grade if you like), grouped into regional based matches before the semi-finals and final held in Rome, with various players being called up by their regions r-Evolution League franchise in the summer. 8 amateur clubs from Central and Southern Italy were invited into the competition with 4 teams for the Gladiators Roma franchise (2 x Perugia and 2 x Rome) and 4 local teams from Catania province for Spartans Catania.

Short term initiatives that will help establish structures and development beneficial for the long term viability for the code (preventing 1960's situation) are most important and challenging for the Italia RFL, with targets such as federation headquarters, franchise (club) own fields, new competitions, junior and youth participation, stronger media and TV coverage, financial support, political recognition and strengthening the r-Evolution League (clubs, all fixtures and expansion).

One such exciting initiative eventuating earlier than expected was the acquirement of the first fixed headquarters and sports facility for rugby league with a 16 year agreement! The Eastern Rome facility known as the Tor Bella Monaca consists of 2 major multipurpose fields with natural grass (1 covered grandstand already), 2 minor fields and a swimming pool ? with further expansion to be looked at in future (2 fields to be synthetic grass) and could be one of the largest Rugby facilities in Italy outside a few big union clubs. The club has since over rugby league's offseason established an rugby union entity to allow some of its league players to participate under the Gladiators banner during the winter and also increasing sponsorship (even forming 1 junior team that will receive some league training).

It was possible through new Italia RFL President Mr David Massitti (Vice President at the time) and political support as David said at the time "Finally, after over 50 years, the Rugby League finds a proper physical placement. Thanks to the interest of the VIII District of Rome, school clubs involved and those who have spoken at the Coppa Italia finals, we have managed to obtain the grant. I must thank Dr. Lorenzetti's, the town hall muniplicity and Sports Centre of Rome VIII. Our intention is to turn this place into a Centre for the development of Rugby League and the oval ball." It will be beneficial for Gladiators Roma, visiting Italia RFL clubs and fellow rugby entities while he says "The goal is to find fixed locations in Italy, places where the 13 code can grow, bringing it to become, an independent game and be able to sustain itself. We made a crucial step that should not be wasted, Italia RFL and the Gladiators have a place to grow and from which we hope can leave a message: we're taking the sport terribly seriously, we want to see it grow and expand."

Increasing TV exposure for rugby league was a target achieved with the r-Evolution League Gran-Finale broacasted across Europe and North Africa, on regional TV (Roma UNO) and highlights on Sport Italia (national free to air TV) and increased media exposure for rugby league clubs (in Italian papers, blogs and websites).

Federal and Club Highlights in 2011:

* New websites implemented (Italia RFL - www.irfleague.it and r-Evolution League - www.rleague.it).
* Italia RFL and Gladiators Roma aquiring own legal headquarters and sports centre
* First Italian Cup (Italia RFL) being formed with 8 new teams (2 Umbria, 2 Lazio, 4 Sicily) and over 120 players participated
* Etruschi Perugia winning the first Coppa Italia and Portaportese Roma as runners-up
* Coppa Italia Finale played at the prestigious Hotel La Borghesiana, where the National rugby union and Soccer/Football teams have prepared and trained in Rome)
* Flag Rugby exhibition match being played before Coppa Italia final
* The expansion of the r-Evolution League into Padova and Reggion Emilia, on top of consolidating Magnifici Firenze, Spartans Catania and Gladiators Roma.
* Rex Albinea RL qualifying for Grand Final in their first season, while Gladiators Roma winning their second successive Italian Championship and effectively the "Italian double" (Campionato & Coppa)
* Spartans Catania involving at least 11 youth (aged between 18-21) in their squad in the championship ? finishing third overall
* Rex Albinea RL coach and players meeting with Jonah Lomu and expressing his positive opinion for rugby growth (any code), hence attracting regional media attention for the Rex
* Magnifici Firenze's coach and former Italia A RU International debuting in rugby league
* Padova Jaguars recruiting Marzio Zanato, former Italia RU A and U20 International coach and received rugby league coaching experience at 2 NRL Club Coaching Camps (one under Wayne Bennett)
* Amongst the few rugby league competitions in the world (outside NRL, NZ, France and UK) to have Grand Final TV coverage. R-Evolution League GF broadcasted into Europe and North Africa 3 times through a SKY international channel and also on Roma Uno TV (regional/local). With highlights being shown on the national free to air station 'Sport Italia'
* Involvement of Eurosport commentators and best experts to commentate rugby league for Italy with Gianluca Veneziano and Luca Tramontin for the TV coverage
* Over 220 participating rugby league players since foundation in mid-2010
* Final process toward government recognition from Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) beginning from late November.

The details of the 2012 Coppa Italia Rugby League will soon be announced with the first match being played the last month. The competition is looking to provide another positive increase for participation in 2012. The Coppa Lazio & Sicilia have began and plans are being finalising with new regional cups in existing rugby league regions, which aids with coaching tutelage from their respective region's Italian Championship club).

Thank you for all sponsors, executives, members, coaching staff, volunteers, fans and players involved in 2011.




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