Exeter owner Tony Rowe has criticised the UK government for its lack of assistance in re-opening the stalled conference and events business sector following the coronavirus pandemic. The Chiefs have been the only club in the Gallagher Premiership to consistently turn an annual profit in recent years.

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Their revenue streams have traditionally been greatly aided by the facilities developed at Sandy Park since their top-flight promotion a decade ago. However, the 2017 champions have now claimed that the current closure of their ground has hit them hard and the long term effects could be catastrophic.

Speaking on the Exeter club website, chairman and CEO Rowe said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has had a devastating impact on the world economy. Overnight, we went from running a business to completely shutting our doors. That happened in mid-March and here we are in July with nothing open still.

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“As a venue who deals daily in the hospitality industry, providing the outstanding facilities that we do, I don’t think I am the only person who feels this sector has been totally neglected through this period. With the few staff that we have retained, we have spent weeks and weeks getting Sandy Park ready for a return to business. 

“Providing a safe environment for all of our staff and our customers is at the forefront of all that we have been doing, yet we have seen no movement from the powers that be in relation to us getting our business back up and running.

“Currently we have a large number of our conference and events staff furloughed, but if things continue to carry on as they are now, there is a grim reality that some of them will not have jobs to come back to. It’s imperative for us – and all businesses like ours – that we get back to some semblance of day-to-day working and trying to rescue our business from the devastating effects, both physical and financial, of this pandemic.”

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Exeter are currently top of the suspended Gallagher Premiership table with nine rounds of regular 2019/20 season matches still to be played. They have also qualified for the Champions Cup quarter-finals.   

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