‘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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Daniel Schofield deputy rugby cor­re­spon­dent

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.”

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