Monday, January 11, 2010

Italian rugby turning the tide on football.

For so long rugby in Italy has lived in the shadow of football but there is increasing evidence that the 15-man sport is turning the tide on the national game.

The Azzurri's 6-20 defeat against the All Blacks in San Siro on November 14th drew an unprecedented 80,018 spectators, on top of which over two million viewers tuned in at home on Sky and La7.

That crowd broke the record for people attending a rugby match in Italy and to put that figure in context the last four Italian national football home games attracted a combined attendance of just over 60,000.

Nor is that growth confined to the national team with Viadana's recent Heineken Cup match against the Ospreys attracting 20,563 - which not only ranked as one of the best European rugby attendances of that weekend but was greater than half of the Serie A crowds.

Viadana general manager Franco Tonni said: "People are tired of football, with its recent corruption scandals and with the diving that goes on.

"I would say absolutely that the time is ripe for Italy to be converted to rugby."

It is not just the crowds that want a piece of the Italian rugby team, advertisers are jumping on that bandwagon as well.

Leading fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana signed up the Italian national team for a major advertising campaign that thrust them further into the public's consciousness.

A Dolce and Gabbana spokesman said: "The impressive bodies sculpted through dedication, discipline and physically strenuous trainings, make them the perfect models for a new ideal of beauty that is healthy, clean and masculine.

"Because it's the fight, but also the utter sportsmanship with which it is carried on, that makes Rugby one of the most fascinating and captivating disciplines out there."

Crowds of this size would be in the top three of all Welsh, Scottish and Irish teams.

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