‘We are losing £1m a month’
Exeter Chiefs chairman fears clubs will go bust by Christmas Closed stadiums are biggest threat as vital revenues dry up
Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe fears Premiership clubs may go out of business by Christmas if crowds remain locked out of stadiums.
Rowe revealed that Exeter, the only club who consistently turn a profit in the Premiership, are losing £1million a month as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is not just the lack of crowds at Sandy Park that is hurting the club. Their banqueting and conferencing are also closed, but the overheads for those facilities remain. With Exeter, a model of prudent spending, feeling the pinch, Rowe warned that other clubs will be teetering on the brink unless stadiums can open.
“I don’t think the rugby fraternity realise how much clubs are losing and it’s costing us just over a £1million a month to keep operating,” Rowe said. “We still have to maintain all the infrastructure, as well as the playing side, so it’s been incredibly difficult.
“Sandy Park, as a business, has already had to cancel more than £1 million in corporate business from banquets, conferences and dinners, and I can’t see when they will come back, so it’s eating into our reserves. Everybody has held up Exeter as the ideal business and a profitable club because we have Sandy Park conference and banqueting that pays the day-to-day bills, and then we have all these bums on seats for matchdays.
“However, for the last five months that’s been a millstone around our necks. We can’t earn any revenue, yet our outgoings remain the same. Both of those income streams have currently gone.”
English clubs face further threats to their income with the Rugby Football Union poised to slash its central funding agreement with Premiership clubs, while their broadcast agreement with BT Sport ends next season.
Rowe said that the absence of crowds was the most immediate threat to survival. “Central funding is made up of TV, league sponsors and RFU money,” he said. “However, the bigger money comes from bums on seats and if we can’t get spectators into the stadium, we’re all going to be in trouble.
“If we can’t get some decent revenue coming in by the new year, we’ve got serious problems. We’re fortunate we’ve been able to lean back on some of our assets to keep going, but I do fear for some other clubs. We are in a situation that is not of our own making, and we can’t get out of it until the Government says we can – or we get some kind of vaccine.
“Our presales for season tickets next season are good, but that hinges on us getting people in for the start of the season.”