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Exeter chairman fears Premiership clubs will go bust without fans

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London (AFP)

Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe said Monday that he fears English Premiership clubs will go bust if fans cannot return to matches by Christmas.

Top-flight rugby union will resume in England on Friday after a five-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played behind closed doors as sports authorities wait for government backing to open the gates to supporters.

"I don't think the rugby fraternity realise how much clubs are losing and it's currently costing us just over £1 million (1.1 million euros) a month to keep operating," he said on Monday.

"We still have to maintain all the infrastructure, as well as the playing side, so it's been incredibly difficult."

It is a bleak situation for many clubs who rely on crowd revenue.

Exeter were the only profitable Premiership outfit last year and Rowe is concerned for clubs' futures if fixtures are not played in front of fans soon.

"Central funding is made up of TV, league sponsors and RFU money, which covers some of it, however, the bigger money comes from bums on seats and if we can't get spectators into the stadium, we're all going to be in trouble," Rowe added.

"Most of the clubs will have worked out how long they can survive, but if we can't get some decent revenue coming in by the New Year, we've got serious problems.

"Here at Exeter, because we have been commercially sound for the last 20-odd years, we're fortunate we've been able to lean back on some of our assets to help raise the funds we need to keep going, but I do fear for some of the other clubs."

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