Debenture scheme will help Chiefs kick on - Rowe

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Exeter Chiefs chairman and chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, said creating debenture scheme was imperative to help fund redevelopment of the East Stand at Sandy Park. Picture: JMP Sport

By Mark Stevens

Exeter Rugby Club chairman and chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, believes expanding Sandy Park’s East Stand can help lift the Chiefs to even greater heights in the future.

The Premiership Rugby club recently launched a new debenture scheme to help fund the redevelopment works after the Covid-19 pandemic blew a hole in the finance of what had been the top flight’s solitary profitable club.

Rowe has stated previously that the lack of crowds, coupled with an inability to use Sandy Park as a conference centre because of ongoing restrictions meant they had to tap into a reserve fund set aside for the ground development - which will raise capacity at the stadium to 15,600 - as well as borrow £12m.

“We needed to get on with the work and had to find another way to fund it,” Rowe told the Rugby Paper. “None of the Premiership clubs has had any grants during the pandemic, only access to loans. We should get help from the government, as sides in France do, because sport is all about getting kids mobile.

“As things stand, we will get back to 100 per cent crowds next season. That is essential because we do not earn money on match days unless we get at least 10,000 people in. The last thing you want in business is debt because borrowing has to be serviced and repaid, but all the clubs are in the same boat.

“It is is all about finding different ways of generating income and being able to improve facilities. We will have yo manage money over the next few years until we become debt-free again and the debenture scheme offers supporters the opportunity to secure prime seats at the ground and earn more from the money than if it was in a bank.”

Under the scheme, which saw 120 of the 500 debentures sold in the scheme’s first two days, investors will have the right to buy a season ticket for a seat in the centre of the new stand, which is expected to be completed by Christmas, for ten years at a cost of £5,000.

The return on their money will come through a 15 per cent discount on each season ticket purchased during the term, a yield of 2.25 per cent.

“You get diddly-squat in a bank,” added Rowe. “And for us, it is a better option than repaying the investment at the end of the ten-year term.

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How the new East Stand will look at Sandy Park next season

“What this shows is that there is nowhere near enough money in rugby. We have an excellent relationship with our local authority, but it has no budget and all anyone can do is look for lottery support, which is not ideal. The difference between club rugby in France and England is huge.”

The Chiefs have shown, however, that they are a club always pushing to move on, both on and off the field. Although defeated in last month’s Premiership final by Harlequins, it was a sixth successive outing to HQ for the Devonians and Rowe is confident the team can push for honours again this season, both in England and in Europe.

“You’re always downhearted when you lose, but good on Quins,” he said. “I sensed throughout that we were a bit off colour and perhaps did not want it as much as them. That said, I’ve no doubt we will be back!”

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