Bax­ter: Clubs that serve com­mu­ni­ties will just dis­ap­pear with zero fi­nance

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Rugby Union - By Mick Cleary

Ex­eter Chiefs di­rec­tor of rugby, Rob Bax­ter, has warned of “sports clubs that are just go­ing to dis­ap­pear as busi­nesses as they can­not be run on zero fi­nance”, fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion to put on hold plans to al­low fans back into sta­di­ums.

Ex­eter play their Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup semi-fi­nal tie against Toulouse at Sandy Park on Satur­day be­hind closed doors, but had been due to wel­come 1,000 fans against Lon­don Ir­ish next Wed­nes­day with their Gal­lagher Pre­mier­ship match a des­ig­nated test event. The club de­scribed the de­ci­sion to shelve that plan as a “huge blow”.

Chair­man Tony Rowe be­lieves that sev­eral clubs could go bust by Christ­mas, although Ex­eter them­selves are in good shape “to weather the storm”. Bax­ter ad­mit­ted many oth­ers would not be as for­tu­nate.

“It doesn’t take a ge­nius to have con­cerns,” said Bax­ter. “Out­side of pro­fes­sional sport, a lot of sports clubs that pro­vide com­mu­nity ser­vice are just go­ing to dis­ap­pear. You can’t run busi­nesses on zero fi­nance. We will see clubs com­ing un­der pres­sure and let’s hope there is a gen­uine con­cern taken by gov­ern­ment in how they aim to help us.

“I am a di­rec­tor [here at Ex­eter] sit­ting on the board, so I see the fi­nan­cial pre­dic­tions and those things are un­der pres­sure when peo­ple are ei­ther in semi-lock­downs or venues aren’t al­lowed to open.

“There is pres­sure on us fi­nan­cially. We think we will be fine, though. We are a sta­ble busi­ness. We have got things in the pipe­line.”

Ex­eter are the only Pre­mier­ship club to op­er­ate at a profit, but they recog­nise that their fu­ture well­be­ing is also based on those with­out prof­itable rev­enue streams or on those in the com­mu­nity game that de­pend on the for­tunes of the Rugby Football Union for their in­come.

Bax­ter has pro­found fears for their fu­ture af­ter Rugby Football Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill Sweeney an­nounced on Tues­day that he was ex­pect­ing a 60 per cent down­turn in fund­ing for the game at large, with grim fore­casts of a £138mil­lion re­duc­tion in rev­enue at Twick­en­ham if no fans can at­tend games.

“Sport is a huge part of the coun­try’s cul­ture that we can’t just let slip by with­out tak­ing ac­tion,” said Bax­ter, who ac­knowl­edges just how de­pen­dent Ex­eter are on the feeder net­work of lo­cal clubs. “We take a great deal of pride in our re­la­tion­ship with lo­cal clubs.”

Sta­ble: Rob Bax­ter ex­pects Ex­eter Chiefs to sur­vive, but knows other clubs might not be so for­tu­nate

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