Exeter chairman Tony Rowe insists Premiership Rugby’s under-pressure owners deserve praise rather than vilification in the face of mounting debt.
A TRP survey reveals that despite the annual turnover of the 13 Premiership shareholders, including London Irish, hitting a record £211.7m in season 2017/18, soaring wage bills contributed to overall losses of £44.4m – up from the previous year’s high of £30m.
Wasps and Bristol recorded the largest deficits of £9.7m and £7.2m respectively, while Harlequins (£4.8m) and Newcastle (£4.3m) have paid a heavy price in the face of an arms race which began when salary cap-exempt marquee players were introduced in 2015/16.
Since then, the base salary cap has leapt from £5m to £7m, which, with a range of credits and marquee players on top, means clubs are spending up to £9m.
|Club finances (2017-18)||Turnover||Profit/Loss||Wages (% of turnover)|
|Bristol Bears*||£5.3m||-£7.2m||£8.3m (135.8%)|
|Exeter Chiefs||£20.5m||+£0.7m||£12.1m (59.0%)|
|Leicester Tigers||£20.4m||-£1.2m||£12.7m (62.3%)|
|London Irish||£9.5m||-£2.9m||£8.0m (84.2%)|
|Newcastle Falcons||£10.9m||-£4.3m||£9.6m (88.1%)|
|Northampton Saints||£17.1m||-£2.7m||£11.6m (67.8%)|
|Sale Sharks||£9.3m||-£1.7m||£7.3m (78.5%)|
|Worcester Warriors**||£11.5m||-£2.0m||£11.0m (95.6%)|
However, Rowe believes the recent £200m cash injection from investment firm CVC, allied to a revaluing of club balance sheets, should point to more profitable days ahead – if CVC’s involvement leads to significantly increased money flowing into the game.
Rowe, who currently presides over the Premiership’s only profitable club, told The Rugby Paper: “We’re a professional sport, and when you’re a professional sport it’s all about money.
“We need more money in the Premiership and the reality is that considering what we have to pay to put the rugby product on the field and what it costs to maintain that product to a standard that gets results and attracts spectators, it’s very, very expensive.
“However, if you look at what’s happened with CVC, they’ve valued the Premiership at £800m, which, after giving a chunk of cash (around £15m) to each of the 13 shareholders, has overnight put a value of around £50m on the balance sheet of each club.”
Rowe explained: “All the clubs had before the CVC deal was their ‘P’ share, which wasn’t really a lot, but now the balance sheets are much stronger, which will hopefully allow clubs to secure the finance they need to improve their facilities for spectators.
“Instead of knocking Premiership owners, people should realise it’s not entirely their fault that the current model doesn’t work. There are some big losses in the Premiership but the owners have stuck their hands in their pockets to keep it alive.
“We haven’t had any major money coming in other than the TV money and our deal with the RFU, so hopefully the CVC deal will allow us to move things on.”
Since reaching the Premiership in 2010, Exeter have seen turnover increase to the point where they have overtaken mighty Leicester.
With a new hotel, conference and banqueting complex due to open at Sandy Park in 2021, Rowe added: “You’ve got to continually upgrade your facilities and after the hotel, the next stage is to invest in improving facilities and making Sandy Park bigger.
“I’m a businessman first and foremost – I don’t set up businesses to lose money.”
NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images
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