Slade’s game-winning kick leads Exeter to victory over Gloucester amidst financial uncertainty.
While playing, there are positive signs for Exeter as they have climbed back to third place in the Premiership standings after a dramatic last-minute win, thanks to a far-reaching penalty kick by Henry Slade. However, off the field, not everything is going smoothly as the Chiefs have confirmed that their team was not paid on time last month and they are anticipating a loss of approximately £4 million for the previous fiscal year, to be revealed in the next 10 days.
Exeter officials are firm in their belief that the brief delay in paying their players’ salaries was a mere administrative mistake and strongly dispute any suggestion of the club facing financial trouble. According to sources, a staff member responsible for processing the wages unintentionally attempted to transfer them to the incorrect bank account, resulting in the players receiving their pay 10 hours later than expected on October 31st.
A high-ranking individual from Exeter has emphasized that the club is not in danger of going bankrupt. However, season ticket sales have decreased by 10% and matchday ticket sales are over 20% lower compared to last year. The Premiership is still facing major financial challenges due to the rising cost of living, the repayment of significant Covid loans, and the recent collapses of Worcester, Wasps, London Irish, and Jersey Reds within the last 14 months. These factors are making it more difficult to navigate the situation.
There has been unrest among local residents regarding the cost of tickets, as the price of season tickets does not account for the decrease in Premiership fixtures and the departure of key players. Additionally, with the addition of a women’s team, it is believed that the club is seeking new funding to ensure long-term success for the Chiefs.
Since Exeter became champions of Europe only three years ago, it serves as a current reminder of the obstacles that rugby is currently facing on all levels. The thrilling ending that resulted in the Chiefs’ fourth victory out of six games also demonstrated the exhilaration that club rugby can bring, as Gloucester was surpassed in the final minutes after leading 24-15 with only nine minutes left.
In a windy afternoon in the western countryside, Exeter should have already secured the win with tries from Rus Tuima and their young Welsh captain Dafydd Jenkins in the first half. This gave them the opportunity to take advantage of the wind and further dominate the game. However, the Cherry & Whites suddenly came alive, with Louis Rees-Zammit and Seb Atkinson both scoring in the right corner within five minutes of each other, earning their team a bonus point.
Rees-Zammit skillfully turned away from the defender at the 15-meter mark, created some room for himself, and swiftly stepped off his right foot to score a great goal. George Barton successfully kicked the conversion, and when a deflected kick landed perfectly for the opposing team, Atkinson faked out his way to score their fourth try.
Exeter, though, have not lost at home since October 2022 and were never going to lie down. Aside from 10 minutes spent in the sin-bin for an upright tackle, Tuima was a prominent force throughout with Jenkins not far behind. Exeter also owed much to their other Welsh international Joe Hawkins, whose straight-running in midfield consistently caught the eye, as well as Slade, enjoying a fine season since his omission from England’s World Cup squad.
After Stu Townsend returned and dived over a ruck, he gave the Chiefs a chance at a comeback. The left-footed center remained composed and successfully scored from 45m at an angle to penalize Gloucester for a ruck offense. Replacement prop Harry Elrington was penalized for not moving away fast enough.
Gloucester’s head coach, George Skivington, believed it was a toss-up that could be discussed “endlessly”, leaving Exeter’s head coach Rob Baxter to address rumors about the club’s financial state.
Baxter mentioned that if there is an unnecessary and incorrect uproar causing financial losses, the club will investigate the legal implications. He also stated that everyone has received their payments on the correct date and there is no other issue, apart from the fact that three other Premiership clubs have gone bankrupt recently. The club is facing financial difficulties, but their goal is to operate with a profit. They will make appropriate adjustments to their budget in order to achieve this.