Chiefs get ready to go on war path
HEINEKEN CUP:Coach Rob Baxter has challenged his players to stay true to the Exeter Chiefs’ playing philosophy as they face the might of Leinster
THERE MAY have been a temptation to patronise the Exeter Chiefs in the recent past, portraying them as a plucky little Devon club who defied convention by clambering from National League One into the Premiership in 2010 following a series of unsuccessful skirmishes in the play-offs.
When they qualified for the Premiership by beating Bristol in the first ever Championship final, a popular contention outside the club would have been that they had reached the pinnacle and that it would be a fleeting ascent. They smashed through that ceiling of expectation, finishing eighth in their first campaign and then last season progressed further in claiming fifth spot and a place in the Heineken Cup to boot.
Going into the final weekend of the league proper, they had a chance of making the semi-final play-offs but succumbed to the Northampton Saints.
Strip away the accoutrements of the modern day professional sporting franchise and an identity borrowed from the bygone days of the American Wild West. Ignore the Red Indian metaphors like Chiefs, Braves (a name given to their second team), the large drums that beat out time as their supporters belt out the Tomahawk Chop, brandishing in tandem, foam or inflatable replicas.
That is the pageantry; the marketing smoke signals attuned to the commercial environment but it can not camouflage the substance of what has been achieved on and off the pitch. The twin totems of chairman and chief executive Tony Rowe and coach Rob Baxter have been the primary facilitators in transforming the fortunes of an ambitious club.
Rowe was first approached by the club over 20 years ago seeking a £4,000 investment to put his name on the club jerseys. His South West Communications Group is the club’s main sponsors and alongside his fellow directors, the successful businessman has displayed the sort of financial husbandry that must draw envious glances from rivals clubs.
The Chiefs made a profit before tax of £116,142 (€144,290); only one of three Premiership clubs to return a profit last season.
That figure may have been down on the £711,651 (€884,127) from the previous term, but turnover was up more than £100,000 (€124,236) at £8,366,907 (€10,394,710).
Rowe recently concluded negotiations to buy Leeds Carnegie’s P (Premiership) shares for £5 million (€6,211,800). In 2005 the 13 English Premiership clubs came up with a mechanism for apportioning revenue from a central fund. Current founder member shares are worth £600,000 (€745,830) a season.
On promotion to the elite league a club is given B shares and then five A shares up to a maximum of 40, is awarded after six unbroken years in the Premiership: for every season a club falls outside the Premiership they lose five A shares.