Exeter coach Rob Baxter has played down the revelation that his double-winning Chiefs reported a pre-tax loss of £2.26million for the financial year ending on June 30 last year, a result that contrasted vividly with the previous year’s £24.75m profit.
Prior to the influx of £14.1m for the Gallagher Premiership selling a stake in the league to CVC for £200m in December 2018, Exeter were the only top-flight club in England to consistently turn a profit.
However, the pandemic has hugely impacted their latest set of results, the Chiefs not playing any matches from March last year through to the end of June accounting sign-off date. This absence of matchday revenue contributed hugely to a £4.73m fall in turnover compared to the previous financial year.
Baxter, though, has played down its significance. Aside from being the coach that led the club to Premiership and European glory last October, a period not included in the latest financial report, he is also a director at the club and he believes that ongoing developments such as the building of a hotel at Sandy Park and a new stand at the ground should generate a serious uplift if the stadium is fully reopened to fans by the start of the 2021/22 season.
“In the current climate it’s not as worrying as it would be,” said Baxter, reacting to the cash losses at the club where the pandemic shutdown resulted in Exeter missing out on staging four home Premiership matches, a Premiership semi-final and two knockout Champions Cup matches with fans present, all fixtures that were eventually played behind closed doors when the 2019/20 season resumed last August.
Being told he wouldn't make it as a scrumhalf was one of a number of incidents that motivated @ExeterChiefs Jack Maunder's career, but they've opened up a world beyond rugby and have resulted in a best selling book
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 4, 2021
“There is no point saying any different – to be losing any money in a business is a worry. To lose that amount of money is significant. Having said that, in the current climate it’s probably pretty good. We have lost out having zero crowds, zero bar takings, reduced funding in other areas so there is an answer for it and as long as there is an answer for it you can deal with it.
“We are now on an improving picture over the next few months regarding Covid and this plan of stepping out of it towards sport and hospitality starting again. Sport and hospitality are our main business here, that is how we make our money. On the positive side, the hotel has moved along in a period where it wouldn’t have been able to make money.
“We’re moving on with some of the East Stand development in a period when we wouldn’t be able to make money, so some of those costs and spending etc, they are what they are. They are things we decided to do anyway and they have accelerated because of the situation. They [the losses] are worrying but they would be worrying if they become an ongoing issue rather than a one-off.
“If by the time next season starts we are at full capacity, the argument for the effect (of the pandemic) on sport longer term is relatively small. What will affect it is how long the scenario we are currently in continues. I can’t tell you that because that is the underlying factor that is going to make the difference.
“For us, if we get back to full capacity we will look to be a progressive club, we will be playing to the salary cap and probably in three years’ time, when the old salary cap is due to come back in, we will be one of the teams who will have an expectation to start paying the salary cap again.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s behind closed doors Champions Cup quarter-final at home to Leinster, Baxter reported an encouraging injury outlook following last Saturday’s round of 16 win by Exeter over Lyon. “Very good, everyone has come through from the weekend.
“If anything we looked in need of the game time together which is great. Now we are in that stage with Jack Nowell’s recovery we have got the reins on him, we are holding him back but he is there or thereabouts as well. Alex Cuthbert is progressing well after some kind of different treatment. Things are looking pretty progressive with him, so we are currently looking on the improving side of the picture at the moment.”
Baxter, though, won’t be picking Nowell. “He would say yes (he is ready). I would say history says we would be letting him go out there and potentially hurt himself again. I would say no but that is how close he is.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 6, 2021
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