Exeter Chiefs boss Tony Rowe has issued a warning to the Gallagher Premiership, suggesting teams will go bust unless some semblance of normality returns to rugby.

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The current impact on professional rugby clubs due to the pandemic has been widely reported but Chiefs Executive Rowe paints a grim picture of the finances, saying the Chiefs alone have lost £1 million per month over the course of April, May and June alone.

In an address on the club website the Exeter Chiefs chairman stated: “I don’t think the rugby fraternity realise how much clubs are losing and it’s currently costing us just over a £1m a month to keep operating,” he said. “We still have to maintain all the infrastructure, as well as the playing side, so it’s been incredibly difficult.

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“Sandy Park, as a business, has already had to cancel over £1m in corporate business from banquets, conferences and dinners and right now I can’t see when they will come back, so it’s eating into our reserves pretty quickly.

“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 match-days. However, for the last five months that’s been a millstone around our necks. At the moment, we can’t earn any revenue, yet our outgoings remain the same!

“What was to a degree our ‘golden goose’ in having Sandy Park pay the bills and the overheads, whilst the match-days were the big earners, both of those income streams have currently gone.”

“Central funding is made up of TV, league sponsors and RFU money, which covers some of it,” he explained. “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.

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“Most of the clubs will have worked out how long they can survive, but if we can’t get some decent revenue coming in by the New Year, we’ve got serious problems. Here at Exeter, because we have been commercially sound for the last 20-odd years, we’re fortunate we’ve been able to lean back on some of our assets to help raise the funds we need to keep going, but I do fear for some of the other clubs.”

The Exeter Chiefs supremo, who was the victim of a home invasion, is angry that he can’t do anything to remedy the situation.

“I can look at things here and say ‘don’t do this or don’t do that’, but with what’s happening I can’t do anything to fix things,” said Rowe. “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.

“Next month we had to refund those people who asked for their money back from tickets sold this season. Thankfully, there were a number of season ticket holders who gifted their money back to the club and for that gesture we are incredibly thankful.

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“Our pre-sales for season tickets next season are also good, over 80 per cent, but that all hinges on us getting people in for the start of the season on November 20. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll be paying more money back and there will be no light at the end of the tunnel.”

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