Italian rugby to become Celtic League shareholder

Milan - The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) confirmed they have reached an agreement in principle to become a shareholder of Celtic Rugby, which runs the PRO14 cross-border competition.

The agreement will guarantee Italian clubs Benetton and Zebre's participation in the PRO14 until 2023 and provides commitments around increased funding and upgrading of facilities for the clubs.

"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 FIR president Alfredo Gavazzi.

"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."

Italian clubs joined the Celtic competition of Irish, Welsh, Scottish and South African clubs in 2010, with Treviso, now named Benetton, and Aironi, the first representatives. Parma-based Zebre replaced Aironi for the 2012-13 season.

"Italian rugby has always shown great potential, but now in the past 12 months we have seen concrete signs of that with both Benetton Rugby and Zebre enjoying their best season in the tournament," added Martin Anayi, PRO14 Rugby chief executive.