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'I probably haven't got the clearance from the board to talk in that level of detail'

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Rob Baxter believes it could take a number of seasons before defending Gallagher Premiership champions Exeter can eventually balance their books again due to the havoc the pandemic has had on their finances. Having been the only top-flight club to consistently post a profit in pre-pandemic times, it was April when the Chiefs reported a pre-tax loss of £2.26million in their financial results to June 2020, a hit that only took into account the early months of last year’s UK lockdown. 

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It won’t be until the next filing of annual accounts when the true cost of the pandemic is revealed and the damage will likely take some time to repair according to Baxter, the Exeter boss who also sits on the English club’s board.  

“There are very specific figures,” he admitted when asked by RugbyPass about the wounding effect the pandemic has had on the Exeter bottom line. “I could probably reel them off to you but I probably haven’t got the clearance from the board to talk in that level of detail. I don’t mind telling you it’s millions of pounds. 

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“I know I’d have the clearance to speak to you on that basis and we are going to have to get ourselves back to the level where we were making money before and looking like a profitable club. We are going to have to do that for a number of seasons to get back on an even keel. 

“We have an expectation to do that, of course we do because we did it for a number of seasons pre-covid, but the timing of it and how quickly we can get back to that scenario is what is going to be very important for us.”

Sunday against Newcastle will be the first time since December that Exeter have been able to welcome a limited number of fans to Sandy Park, but Baxter is troubled by the lack of clarity about when the Chiefs can potentially fully reopen for business. Matchday protocols haven’t changed for his team yet, even though games are no longer behind closed doors, while there has only been a small loosening of the restrictions they continue to adhere to on non-matchdays.  

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“We hear things on an occasional basis, normally every fortnight,” he said when quizzed on whether steps are being taken towards a return to normality. “Things have changed a little bit, the lateral flow situation moved from three (tests) to two a week recently and there is a little more leeway around what is allowed at the clubs, so the players can now eat in open area situations but be based at the club doing those kinds of things. 

“There are some measures that are changing but, as I say, the big measure from a financial perspective that people want some direction on is at what stage is there a genuine expectation to get back to full crowds because no one seems to be giving the indication that post-June 21 it is full crowds because no one is saying the Premiership final is going to be played in front of a sellout crowd or even if there is an opportunity there. 

“At some stage, people will want some clarity on that and I certainly know the people who are responsible for long term budgets will need some guidance on when there will be an expectation for full crowds pretty quickly.”

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'I probably haven't got the clearance from the board to talk in that level of detail'

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