The stories of rugby and Village Green turf in Italy have similar parallels.
Both are regarded as relatively new and novel to the Italian consumer but each has laid solid foundations and are rapidly earning accolades and acceptance in a competitive landscape.
In the beautiful coastal city of Imperia on the northern Mediterranean Sea in Italy’s Liguria region, nestles the sports club Imperia Rugby.
Imperia Rugby is a proud sports club that since 1974 has been playing and promoting rugby. But until recently, the senior and full range of junior teams had endured playing on sub-standard dirt and patchy grass pitches.
With the introduction of Village Green turf, the sports lives of the hundreds of members have been changed forever.
In 2019, the club made the transformational decision to invest in a new playing surface and the club has since become a magnet for tournaments, sport-share arrangements and community events.
In the search for a durable turf variety with good adaptability, club president Luigi Ardoino contacted a local professional greenkeeper, Enrico Minazzo, who had seen in other sports projects the success Village Green had enjoyed.
Mr Ardoino said Liguria’s cold winters and proximity to the mountains meant it was never easy to manage turf pitches.
“I’m genuinely amazed how well Village Green has performed throughout the whole year,” Mr Ardoino said.
Speaking just days after Imperia had hosted a weekend tournament featuring teams from southern Europe, he said the club’s nervousness about being able to manage a quality pitch was now gone.
“The pitch performed well and many players from Monaco, who are used to great facilities, were amazed at the quality of the playing surface, especially compared to previous visits they had made,” Mr Ardoino said.
Seasons of success
VG was stolonised in August 2019. Stolonising is the process of taking the stolon of the turfgrass plant, which is a reproductive structure and spreading them over the surface of the dirt, much like seeding.
Greenkeeper Mr Minazzo said that during the first winter, as is usual, there were some visible signs of traffic damage but it still handled well, but since spring (and with no maintenance due COVID-19) the pitch has enjoyed a lush, even coverage.
“Village Green goes dormant very late, in January, compared to Bermuda that goes brown in November, and frequently, especially if there’s not much traffic on it, stays green even at this time,” Mr Minazzo said.
“This is a big advantage for us as we want to always deliver the best for the club.”
The club installed a new irrigation system to maintain the surface.
“The existing soil is pretty bad and the budget didn’t allow us to redo all of it so we scraped and levelled a shallow bit of the topsoil and top-dressed it with sand.”
Mr Minazzo said Village Green was the only turf type that could’ve performed so well under these conditions, and was particularly adept at handling the heavy traffic of rugby games and the rigorous wear of studded boots caused by the rugby scrums, where turf is pushed to its limit.
“The deep root system holds up well to rugby and other sports, and we could not be happier with the low maintenance and water needs as well,” Mr Minazzo said.
As a result of the Imperia Rugby turf success story, many other sport associations are now are keen to play on the pitch.
Club president Mr Ardoino said a summer triathlon was concluded at their rugby ground.
“With more than 1,000 people on it over two weeks, it was amazing how fast the Village Green turf bounced back,” he said.