3 Sep 2012

Exeter Chiefs aiming for the stars with planned expansion of Sandy Park

In the Westcountry, there is currently growing thought that the Exeter Chiefs have the potential to become a powerhouse of the domestic game in England. Maybe even European challengers.

It's a pretty bold statement for a team which has never won a domestic title in it's history and all the more intriguing when one considers that up until two years ago, the Devonshire based side had primarily toiled in the relative depths of the English Championship.

 There are a variety of reasons for the optimism though.

While Devon historically has been disadvantaged economically compared to other parts of the country, heavily reliant on seasonal trades such as tourism and farming, it's premier rugby club has been bucking the trend in recent years. Business it seems is thriving and the balance sheet is about to look even healthier....

Clearly a key part of the success in recent years can be attributed to the action on the field.

Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, and his coaching team have moulded a team ethos and culture which the players have bought into. In turn, the local community have supported the team's efforts with their feet, and crucially their wallets.

Exeter's first game of the season saw a particularly rampant display, as they hammered Sale Sharks by 43 points to 6 on Danny Cipriani's ill-fated home coming from the Super 15. Exeter as always were committed and ruthless. Two years ago that kind of result would have been unthought of, but now it is not a surprise at all.

Aside from the players and management though, the club's suits have been delivering too.

Wallaby Dean Mumm has joined the Chiefs' ranks for the 2012/13 season.
There has been wise re-investment in the squad during the Summer, with Wallaby lock Dean Mumm adding his international experience to the pack, after jetting over from the NSW Waratahs and Fijian Flyer Watisoni Votu also bringing his unique brand of flair to the Chiefs backline this year.

Exeter's ability to lure such talent indicates just how far they have come since their promotion to English rugby's top table two years ago.

Where the real excitement lies though is the Chiefs' home ground, Sandy Park.

It's a stadium which has housed Rob Baxter's men since  2006, after relocating from the far less spectacular County Ground and the relocation has been a total success so far.

In a move which signals Exeter's ambition though, plans have now been submitted to redevelop the ground to almost double it's current capacity.

The Premiership rugby club released this striking image recently of its vision for their stadium and what it wants to achieve in expanding its Sandy Park ground from 10,750 to 20,600.

Model for planned expansion of Sandy Park
The expansion should enable the club to generate the income needed to compete at the very top echelons of European rugby, as long as fan numbers increase accordingly. Chief Executive Tony Rowe is optimistic about the numbers coming through the gates though and considers it the natural progression for the club.

"I predict that in three to four years we will average an attendance of about 13-15,000. We will not fill the ground regularly but a 20,000 capacity is what you need to play at the top end of European rugby and host Heineken Cup quarter and semi-finals. This will give us the headroom when we are playing in big games."

The expansion has been described as a 'five-year project' and it remains subject to receiving planning permission from Exeter City Council. This is a clear statement of intent from the Chiefs though.

What do you make of the planned expansion of Sandy Park?
Do you share in the optimism that Exeter Chiefs could be a real force?



  2. trevor bolt haverfordwest pemb03 September, 2012

    Yes i do but they need to lowe the prices and give discounts to oap's instead of students who attend one of Englands richest university i am sure the green welly ones dont need discounts

    1. Good point Trevor. I'm not against the student discount, but it would increase the feeling of communioty if the older fans were treated favourably too.

      One worry for regular visitors would be whether ticket prices remain stable too, as there is always the possibility that prices might go up to cover the cost of the expansion.

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