Foreign players in Italian Championships – Article 22 story

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The article 22 of the Regolamento Organico (rules on teams composition) of the Italian bridge Federation (FIGB) states the rules for the participation to Italian championships. It has to be said at once the new: the foreign players have more rights than before, and can play also if not dwelling in Italy. That said, let’s go on. The law, before, allowed foreign players in some tourneys but not in others; and, anyway, no more than two players every six Italian ones. Two years ago, Francesco Angelini asked the Italian Federation whether a pair of foreign players could or couldn’t play the Campionati Societari, that is the bridge club championship.

The Italians usually don’t ask a public administrator what to do: in Italy there are 70.000 laws (an “average” country has 5000 to 10,000) so it’s rare that somebody could reply; our way is to do all until somebody doesn’t forbid it in case letters. Furthermore that article was clear: foreign players not living in Italy could play several championships, but not the Societari. Mr Angelini then asked, and, unluckly, got the response: the person who he had addressed didn’t give the right one, “no, they cannot”, nor the doubtful but harmless “who knows?”. The response was: yes, they can, therefore Mr Angelini went to battle, to Bologna, with foreign reinforces, getting the final.

The knot had to come after the semi-final: the defeated team, Varese, addressed a complaint to the survey Committee (Comitato Nazionale Gare, CNG). The three members of the CNG were in Bologna, sitting on the playing rooms, or maybe walking around there, anyway ready to give immediate response to any question or complaint about laws. The Angelini Team should have been disqualified, but a doubt blew the CNG: wasn’t the article 22 contrary to the principle of free employing for all European citizens in every European country? Under the onslaught of such a doubt they didn’t reply to the complaint at once as they should have done – yes or not, but now – but sent the question to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

So Angelini played the final against Lavazza, being defeated. A month later, the CONI replied that the matter didn’t affect him, thus the final CNG’s decision, after two months, was as follow: Varese was right, she had had the right to play the final, not Angelini. But the final couldn’t of course be played again, and after two months! Therefore Varese was “awarded” with the second place. If we consider that Varese had the right to play the final; if we consider that her complaint was just to secure that right, not to get a useless second place; and, eventually, is we consider that in final they could have beaten Lavazza (not easy to do, but not impossible), all this deemed, it should be unfolded how happened that Varese, winning by right, had been forbidden to play by the same right they had been calling to be defended by.

But this is the past. Now the news on 22, in brief: the new 1st, 2nd, 3rd paragraphs (the first was the one of Angelini-Varese affair), has been significantly changed; any team now can recruit as many foreign players as they want, but can play only two each entire team competition, or only one in pair events. Besides, the rule that formerly demanded the foreigners to dwell in Italy has been cancelled.

Another important decision has been the utter removal of the 5th paragraph. It stated, before, that the Italians who had been playing for foreign National Teams were forbidden to play in Italian Championships for five years from the last match played abroad. This rule, fortunately cancelled, resembled those dictatorships where the honour of the country lays on sport – not only the prestige: the honour! – thus the athletes have to behave as soldiers or treated as traitors.

The 5th paragraph had already been modified some months ago: the interdiction’s period had been shortened to three years. The cancellation is a good decision, we repeat it, but ill-justified; in the presentation of the new law the Federal Council has written: “The foreign players can enter the Italian Championships according with the new art. 22. In order to make the rule’s effect homogeneous and not discriminating, the same right will be granted to the Italian player who have played in foreign national teams”.

It’s not clear where the discrimination was, nor is clear why and how the Council thinks that a foreign citizen could be homogenized with an Italian who have played in a foreign National Team. Moreover, the homogenization didn’t succeed, the rights aren’t the same: the foreigners’ rights are now wider, but not unlimited as Italians’ ones.

The justification of the new law aren’t consistent with the law itself, but there’s a bright way to “homogenize” the former with the latter: it suffices to cancel “foreign” from all the art. 22. This done, all really will have the same rights, as it should be for the sport, which main purpose is to unite the people. The World Chess Federation since her foundation in 1924 adopted this fine saying: Gens una sumus (We are one people).

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Paolo Enrico Garrisi

November 15, 2012

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