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RaboDirect PRO12
Cash-strapped Aironi kicked into touch
Enrico Borra
April 6, 2012
Aironi's Giulio Toniolatti searches for a gap, Glasgow v Aironi, RaboDirect Pro12, Firhill, Glasgow, Scotland, March 23, 2012
Aironi's Giulio Toniolatti attacks the Glasgow defence during a PRO12 game © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: RaboDirect PRO12
Teams: Aironi | Italy

Aironi have been jettisoned from next season's RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup due to ongoing financial struggles.

Following the withdrawal of their main sponsor, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, it has been increasingly difficult for club officials to maintain a footing among Europe's elite and the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) have today issued a press release announcing that they have revoked the team's license to participate in the PRO12 due to "financial pressure".

A subsequent statement from the PRO12 said: "Aironi will honour all fixtures until the end of the current season and the FIR have started a procedure to form a new franchise to participate in next year's competition.

"RaboDirect Pro12 will issue more information as it becomes available."

Aironi were introduced to the former Celtic league two seasons ago, along with Benetton Treviso, but on-field results have been disappointing in comparison with their Italian rivals.

The club currently sits bottom of the PRO12, eight points adrift of Edinburgh, and suffered an early exit from this season's Heineken Cup, where they were hammered 82-0 by Clermont Auvergne.

The FIR must now decide the best course of action in terms of replacing Aironi, with a deadline for submissions of interest set for April 25. Whether or not any interest can be raised remains to be seen, with Italy currently battling economic hardship due to the Eurozone crisis.

The PRO12 entry criteria will also pose problems to any prospective bidders, with Treviso understood to be the only club aside from Aironi currently able to fulfil the economic obligations.

Rumours suggest that the FIR could be pressed into forming a centralised, union-funded second region as a back-up plan, with the club tentatively named Azzurri and based in Parma or Calvisano.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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