Exeter Rugby Club chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, insists there is a ‘real desire’ from within the club and from Premiership Rugby to ensure the 2019/20 season is completed.
Although the table-topping Chiefs have not played a competitive fixture since beating Bath 57-20 at Sandy Park back in early March, Rowe is confident that a return to competitive action is not all that far away.
Rowe’s optimism comes following the announcement earlier this week where the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), Public Health England (PHE), the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UK Sport, agreed elite combat and team sport would have permission to resume full-contact training for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak.
In the white paper released, it will allow organised close contact training, such as tackling, contact from inside two metres and certain equipment to be shared.
Currently, all Premiership Rugby clubs have agreed that no training will take place until early June. However, once that deadline is reached it is now possible that clubs - including the Chiefs - could return to training and that the process of restarting top-flight fixtures can take place.
“I don’t mind saying, last week I was pretty depressed as I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” said Rowe. “At that time, we were not sure when we could get back to training and what the future told. This announcement this week has changed things and now I’m more confident that we will return to playing again soon.
“As a club and as a sport, we have to see this as a positive. Of course, we will adhere to the advice of the Government and the various medical professionals, but as a club we have a real desire to finish this season. It’s the same for Premiership Rugby, they too want to finish this season and get clubs back playing again.”
In what have been testing times for people across the world, Rowe insists there has been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes at Sandy Park to ensure the club is able to cope with the effects of the current pandemic as best as possible.
“In 22 years of running the club, this year will be the first time that we have lost money,” explained Rowe. “There are obvious reasons for this, of course, but we have had to work incredibly hard to help preserve the business as best we can.
“Because of the virus there will be a big fat hole in the accounts and that means we will have to find ways of addressing that moving forward. It’s not easy, particularly when you have no income coming in, but I’m confident that we have found a way to overcome the challenge currently.
“Looking at what is spelt out in this new government paper, plus the way all of us have helped to lower infection rates and do what we have done over these past few weeks, we are starting to see things change and move in the right direction.
“A lot has happened in these past four months and a lot will change in the next four months, that is why I am a lot more optimistic about the future and about us getting back to playing rugby again.
"Having spoken with Rob [Baxter] we are both very encouraged by the announcement this week and we feel there is a very good chance that we can get back to some kind of normality in the not too distant future.”