Sandy Park needs to re-open - Rowe
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Rugby Club chairman and chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, has today hit out at the government’s lack of assistance to the conference and events business sector like that of Sandy Park in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since shutting its doors in mid-March, Exeter’s Premier Conference and Banqueting Centre has been unable to trade due to the rules of lockdown.
Not only has Sandy Park lost out on over £750,000 worth of business that has been postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic, rugby operations have also been put on hold, including matches involving Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs, preventing any match-day income from being accrued.
Rowe says the lack of business is having a considerable financial impact on both the Chiefs and Sandy Park and that if the venue is not able to have customers returning through the doors in the next few months, the long-term outlook could well be ‘catastrophic’.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has had a devastating impact on the world economy,” he said. “Overnight, we went from running a business to completely shutting our doors. That happened in mid-March and here we are in July with nothing open still.
“As a venue who deals daily in the hospitality industry, providing the outstanding facilities that we do, I don’t think I am the only person who feels this sector has been totally neglected through this period.
“With the few staff that we have retained, we have spent weeks and weeks getting Sandy Park ready for a return to business. Providing a safe environment for all of our staff and our customers is at the forefront of all that we have been doing, yet we have seen no movement from the powers that be in relation to us getting our business back up and running.
“Currently we have a large number of our conference and events staff furloughed, but if things continue to carry on as they are now, there is a grim reality that some of them will not have jobs to come back to.
“It’s imperative for us – and all businesses like ours – that we get back to some semblance of day-to-day working and trying to rescue our business from the devastating effects, both physical and financial, of this pandemic.”