Thirteen plastic bottles for a shirt: the environment has already won at the Rugby World Cup

Thirteen plastic bottles for a shirt: the environment has already won at the Rugby World Cup
Thirteen plastic bottles for a shirt: the environment has already won at the Rugby World Cup

There is another Italy protagonist of the Rugby World Cup, which in one way or another will go to the final in Paris on 24 October. An ingenious story, such as can only be found around Bologna and not just for engines (a visit to the Industrial Heritage Museum in the Emilia-Romagna capital will leave you speechless), and a very “green” challenge. It began half a century ago along the ancient Via Emilia. Macron, European leader in sportswear, dresses six national teams that have reached the final stage of the world championship: Scotland, Wales, Georgia, Romania, Samoa and Italy. Official supplier of World Rugby and the Rugby World Cup, naturally of the match directors and their collaborators. Each shirt worn by the oval champions – yes, the ones that resist all the scuffs and abrasions – is made from 15 recycled plastic bottles.

From a small shop to the Rugby World Cup

It all started 52 years ago in a small shop in via Saffi, specialized in the then (almost) unobtainable US sports products such as baseball or American football. Today Macron has a headquarters of 22,000 square metres, including offices and a distribution centre, immersed in a park three times larger in Valsamoggia, halfway between Modena and Bologna. It has a turnover of more than 170 million euros with a growth of 37% compared to the previous financial year, 300 employees, 165 single-brand sales points around the world (80% of the turnover outside Italy, with Great Britain the largest market important). Football, basketball, volleyball, handball, padel, wheelchair basketball and many other disciplines: technical sponsor of 90 professional clubs. And a leader in rugby.

Pavanello, the CEO: “Leader in the oval ball”

“The love for the oval ball blossomed about ten years ago, in Scotland,” explains Gianluca Pavanello, CEO of Macron. “First the Edinburgh team, the Scottish national team, Glasgow”. Then came Wales, then Italy. The clubs. “From our point of view, rugby is the most technically complicated discipline: the shirts are made of multiple fabrics, to minimize the possibility of catching by the opponent, with seams reinforced with rubber to guarantee more resistance”. The goal is for the shirt not to tear: never. “We do continuous research to have a more functional and beautiful product in design. At the front the fabric must be more rigid, less slippery, and in other parts more elastic. And then shorts, socks. Each time it’s a small step forward, like a sequence in a film.” The players take care of the ‘crash tests’ during matches and training sessions.

And the ‘crash tests’ are done by the players on the field

Technical clothing and gaming accessories (teamwear) are one thing, merchandising (official kits, articles and accessories for fans of sponsored clubs) is another; then the run&train, technical clothing for those who run alone and for fitness; athleisure, sports clothing for free time; and the new fashion, padel, with a dedicated collection for players of all levels. “The rugby players’ shirt, a kind of second skin, can be imported in free time: especially in countries where a lot of beer is drunk,” smiles Pavanello. “In stores we sell the replica, which naturally has a different wearability: different collections between training and travel, the travel part has a fashion line”.

Thirteen plastic bottles to make a shirt

All the shirts of the 90 professional clubs and many products in the catalog are made from 100% recycled material. “Eco Fabric is a new fabric made with polyester yarn certified by the Global Recycled Standard: 13 half-litre plastic bottles are recycled for the production of each shirt”. The ‘green’ choice translates into another series of initiatives and good practices such as joining the Better Cotton Initiative for a more sustainable cultivation of cotton and a higher standard of natural fibre, the reduction of packaging materials and use of paper /certified cardboard and 100% recycled polyethylene polybags.

“Come on Azzurri, but Scotland is beautiful”

Only on the shirts of the six national teams dressed by Macron and on those of the referees does the World Rugby logo appear. But which team does Pavanello support at the World Cup? “Naturally Italy. The group is not at all simple, with the All Blacks and France it will take a feat but hope is the last to die. After Italy, there is a very strong bond with Scotland: they lost the opening match against South Africa, but in recent seasons they have made great progress and I hope they can be the surprise of this World Cup.”

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