Napolitano calls for Italy Super League franchise

A Super League franchise based in Italy should be looked at, according to national team boss Carlo Napolitano.

Salford-born Napolitano made the comments after watching his side’s World Cup come to an end with a 16-0 defeat to Tonga at Halifax, when a win would have set up a quarter-final date against New Zealand.

In the past month, he has led the Azurri to a shock warm-up win over England, a World Cup win over Wales and a draw over Scotland, who progress to the last eight at their expense.

Italy have been one of the stories of the World Cup, and Napolitano believes that basing a Super League franchise in the country is a possibility.

He said: “There’s definitely a chance of a good Super League franchise happening over there.

“As soon as fans come to watch rugby league, they really enjoy it, and I don’t understand why we haven’t gone down that route.

“The powers that be have turned around and said they don’t think it will be well supported and that they don’t think it’ll be successful, but how can they make that judgement without even doing a feasibility study?

“I know Italians pretty well and I know that if you’re successful, then they’ll follow. Of course they’d need dispensations like what Catalan had.

“If they’re serious about a European Super League, then be true to that.”

Super League started in 1996 with a French presence in the shape of Paris St Germain, but they disappeared after just two seasons, and a country other than England wasn’t represented until Catalan joined in 2006.

Two countries became three in 2009, when Welsh side Celtic Crusaders were handed a franchise, but their stay in the division was short lived.

There has been talk of a second French franchise, and Toulouse have been knocked back on more than one occasion, but are believed to be involved in the ongoing re-structuring talks.

Napolitano also questioned the administration of the game, in a powerful departing press conference from a tournament during which he has earned many admirers.

He said: “Why does Sky Sports only show two games a week over here? That’s the same as when I was a player in 2000.

“Are we serious about the promotion of rugby league?”

Napolitano also revealed that he may step aside from his role as coach of the Italian national team, and possibly take a year off.

He also expressed frustration about not knowing what the future holds for the international calendar.

“It’s been a good World Cup, but we can’t just look at these competitions every four years to determine whether we’re a success or not.

“We don’t know what the profit margins of the World Cup are going to be, so we don’t know what the funding pots are. I would love to know what was going on next year, then I could plan.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do this coaching role. I’ve been in the game 14 years as a coach and a player, maybe now’s the opportunity for someone else to do it. I probably need a year off somewhere.”

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