Could Florence be good for rugby, and rugby be good for
It seems that Rome’s Flaminio stadium is not up to the
job, and the large-scale refurbishment that would be necessary to get it up to
standard for major international rugby events by 2013 is not looking likely. So
the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) just might move the whole shebang to
Florence has long been a favorite location for many
international events simply because of its physical location, just halfway between
Italy’s two major cities, Rome and Milan. It hosts the Italian national
football team’s training ground in Coverciano for this very reason. So, when
asked whether or not Florence should become the next big rugby destination, I’d
say, why not?
Florence, and indeed Tuscany, is home to many expat
Brits, a population that follows rugby fanatically (and sometimes even plays
quite well), so there could be a great deal of local support for the game.
Plus, just recently the British Consulate of Florence announced its imminent
closure, an end to its historical presence here in Florence, its various
functions having been taken over by various government offices across Europe.
Perhaps rugby might be a way to reinforce those wavering, yet very special,
British-Tuscan links that that have united a region to a country for so long.
Renzi, the mayor of Florence, is obviously determined, as are many others, to
shake things up a little in the Arno valley. What better way to do so than
creating a home for a relatively new and growing sport, which, it must be said,
Italy plays rather well given that it is a relative newcomer to the game.
Some readers might have noticed that Justin Waldman
and I haggled over the pros and cons on TF’s Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/tfnews)
without reaching any serious conclusions, except to highlight that rugby
excites strong emotions for those who come from countries with world class
teams (in this case the British Lions and the Springboks). And let’s be honest:
Rome stole Florence’s title as capital of Italy 150 years ago. They owe us.