Exeter Chiefs club statement
Tony Rowe, CEO of the Exeter Chiefs released a bullish club statement on Wednesday in reply to what he has perceived as negative coverage by the rugby press. There’s a lot to dissect within the statement and it is revealing in terms of where the Exeter Chiefs currently stand.
Rowe points out that the new Marriott Hotel within the Sandy Park development is near completion, as is the expansion of Exeter’s East Stand. This progress is then put into the context of the Coronavirus pandemic and the difficulties it has presented over the last eighteen months.
Front of shirt sponsor
Rowe then moves on to the topic of Exeter Chief’s front-of-shirt sponsor. Their deal with SWComms, the company that Rowe founded, ended in the summer. SWComms has been part and parcel of Exeter’s meteoric rise into England’s premier tier of rugby.
Their opening game of this season’s campaign against the Leicester Tigers was played without a front-of-shirt sponsor. This has led some to speculate why. Might the pandemic and its negative effects on the economy be the cause? Or are firms wary of associating themselves with the Chiefs divisive branding?
Pressure has been building on the Exeter Chiefs to drop their use of Native American imagery. The issue of cultural appropriation is mirrored across the pond in the United States. NFL’s Washington Redskins and Major League baseball’s Cleveland Indians recently dropped their nicknames and associated imagery.
Between a rock and a hard place
It’s possible to hold opposing views at the same time on Rowe’s statement and where the Chief’s currently find themselves. You can respect the immense hard work put in to get the Devon side to the top of Europe as recently as last year. Kudos must go to the players, coaches and all the people behind the scenes who made it possible.
This statement, however, does give the impression that Rowe is digging his heels in. Would he, at this crossroads, benefit from keeping an open mind and embracing change? Making these changes costs large sums of money. It may halt the team’s progress and harm off-field business ventures. Having said that, what’s the alternative? Stick your head in the sand and ignore the negative undercurrent which isn’t going to go away any time soon?
If we can put rugby affiliations aside for a moment. The Coronavirus pandemic and the global reaction to it has been problematic, tragic and difficult in a myriad of ways. It has put pressure on many businesses.
Exeter Chiefs aren’t immune to outside factors and find themselves in a quandary for three reasons: the pandemic, their branding and the recent ending of their relationship with SWComms.
The big reveal
Rowe has stated that sponsorship is thriving contrary to any negative reporting. Exeter play their first home game of the season this weekend against Northampton. They plan to reveal their front of shirt sponsor then. By playing his cards close to his chest in this way, might it backfire on him? Let’s hope for Exeter’s sake that this won’t be the case.
Some rival fans may currently be reveling in Exeter’s travails. Possibly irked by the Chiefs coaching and playing staff’s recent comments about the Coronavirus. Just to make matters worse, it was reported recently that French teams are looking at recruiting one of Exeter’s England stars, Henry Slade.
Given the importance of rugby to its communities and towns and the investment Rowe has put in. It would be a real shame to see the club unduly suffer. Perhaps some soul searching and tough decision-making is required before they can keep moving ahead.
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