If Exeter’s 14-7 defeat of Saracens at Sandy Park on December 29 was indeed a victory for rugby principals, then the Chiefs further demonstrated how they are market leaders in promoting values and ethics within the oval ball game this week, writes Gareth Davies.
The Devon side, who have been directly hamstrung by Saracens’ shoddy attempts at circum-navigating financial fair play, have quite rightly been the most vocal at condemning the actions of Nigel Wray and co.
After firstly slopping shoulders at Premiership Rugby’s fine and points deduction, Wray and Saracens changed tact and decided not to appeal these sanctions. Despite some still wanting to make excuses for what can only be described as blatant cheating, the Allianz Park side dropped to the Premiership’s basement and are just over £5 million pounds worse off too.
Somewhat surprisingly, Wray decided to step down from his role of non-executive chairman of the club last week and he was replaced on Thursday by Neil Golding. The Londoners have also brought in Edward Griffiths as interim chief executive and it’s no coincidence that with these appointments a fire sale of players looks set to begin.
Liam Williams, the Wales and Lions winger was set to join Scarlets in June although it now appears this move could happen sooner. Several squad players also look set to leave with talk of players out of contract such as England trio George Kruis, Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth also leaving at the end of 2019-20.
Although Exeter are carrying on like they have done throughout this whole sorry process, in a totally professional manner, there must have been more than just a rue smile in the corridors of power at Sandy Park, given the recent developments.
Tony Rowe, Exeter’s long-term chief executive, who can probably sleep a little easier now justice is being served, has also turned a thoroughly messy, negative situation into one of huge positivity for the Chiefs too.
After it was announced that Saracens’ fine was being split amongst the remaining Premiership clubs, Rowe immediately decided that Exeter’s monies – £350,000 – will be donated to charity and the Chiefs’ Foundation.
While every other Premiership club remains in the red and will probably use this unexpected windfall to try and balance an unhealthy set of books, Exeter have no such difficulties. They make a profit, albeit not a huge one, but such is Rowe’s penchant for doing things right, this donation is hardly a shock.
“Following the unexpected sum of £350,000 being awarded to the club, the board of directors have decided unanimously that this money will be going straight to the club’s charity, the Exeter Chiefs Foundation,” said Rowe.
“As this sum was not budgeted for and looking at our own future forecasts, we feel we do not need to absorb this sum of money into the rugby club.
“Given where it has come from, the board felt it should go straight into the Foundation’s funds, which will benefit hugely and use the money to help a great deal of charities and organisations within our local community.”
For Exeter, this will deliver a small crumb of comfort that they have been compensated for probably being denied a further two Premiership titles.
Whilst the Chiefs will always be left wondering, this is now some real closure for the club, and they can continue their relentless march to a possible league and cup treble.
For Saracens, the race to repair their damaged reputation, just like their battle to avoid relegation, is in full swing. But perhaps a starting point to the slate they are intending to clean, would be a cursory glance west, to a club that continue to prosper by playing by the rules.