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Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club  

Date of release: 25/11/2002

130 Years of Rugby History

For almost 130 years, Exeter Rugby Club has been a force to be reckoned with in English rugby and almost every player in the senior game during that time will have either played at, or will be very aware of, the famous County Ground, the home of the club since 1893.

Like all clubs, Exeter has had its ups and downs but recent years have happily produced a steady ‘up’ gradient which has seen the Chiefs knocking on the door of the Premiership – if not quite having the wherewithal to push that exclusive door open, or even ajar.

Playing success, however, is not enough on its own to gain Premiership status as Rotherham, the champions of last season found to their cost. Any club ambitious enough to play at the higher level has to have a stadium to match its lofty aspirations and the Chiefs have been acutely aware for some time that the County Ground will just not do.

A big decision was needed and it came about at a Special General Meeting of the members of Exeter Rugby Club, the owners of the County Ground, in October when plans to upgrade the aging facility were sidelined in favour of a purpose built stadium at Sandygate on the edge of the City near Junction 30 of the M5.

Approval for such a momentous upheaval was required from 75% of the members of the club attending that meeting but the Club’s managers, who had been working hard behind the scenes on the new project, needn’t have worried about opposition from traditionalists – the vote was passed with a remarkable 99% majority.

It’s not surprising why. The plans displayed showed a breathtaking scheme for a stadium with an initial capacity of 5000 capable of being doubled within a few years. A main pitch, full sized training pitch, a three-quarter sized all-weather facility plus hospitality suites, conferencing, shop and offices combine to provide the very best sporting facilities in the region.

Add to that vast parking areas and a tennis centre and the Chiefs can begin to eye premiership Rugby with more than just forlorn hope.

Managing Director of Exeter Rugby Club, Tony Rowe said: "This was an historic moment for the club. It is a decision that will move us forward and give the club the vital foundation to continue its year on year progress and to compete at the very top of the game.

"There is inevitably sadness about saying goodbye to a stadium which is a true rugby landmark, but the decision was always going to revolve around whether the club wants to progress in rugby terms of not.

"In addition, the stadium, with all its ancillary commercial and social uses, will make a major contribution to the sporting, cultural, leisure and economic fabric of the City of Exeter."

If all goes to pan, the new stadium, yet to be named, will be open for the start of the 2004/5 season and will mark yet another milestone in a long and illustrious history of the South West’s premier rugby club.

· 1871-72 Club founded
· 1873 First match is played against St Luke’s College on 26 October ending in a win by one try and four saves to two saves
· 1884 Richard Kindersley becomes the first player capped directly from Exeter when he plays for England v Scotland at Blackheath on 1 March
· 1890 Exeter win the Devon Cup for the first time beating Torquay Athletic in the final
· 1893 The County Ground opens
· 1898 Exeter take on the Barbarians for the first time but lose 0-12
· 1905 New Zealand visit the County Ground to play Devon and easily beat the south westerners 55-4. It was New Zealand’s first ever match in the northern hemisphere.
· 1908 Thomas Kelly becomes Exeter’s only international captain when he skippers England to a 19-0 victory over France at the Stade Colombes in Paris on New Year’s Day
· 1912 The Springboks visit the County Ground and beat Devon 8-0
· 1963 20,000 see the All Blacks defeat the South-West Counties 38-6 at the County Ground
· 1964 Wing, Adrian Underwood becomes Exeter’s most recent international to be capped whilst at the club when he plays for England v Ireland at Twickenham
· 1969 The South-West Counties lose 9-6 to the touring Springboks at the County Ground
· 1970 Reach the final of the Devon Cup for the first time in 80 years but lose out in the final to St Luke’s College 19-3
· 1971 Exeter win a second Devon Cup again beating Torquay Athletic in the final 33-3
· 1975 The Wallabies visit the County Ground for the first time, scoring four tries in a 23-9 victory over Devon & Cornwall
· 1984 Australia become the last touring team to play a match at Exeter when they draw 12-all with the South West Division, Stuart Barnes and Michael Lynagh kicking four penalty goals apiece
· 1993 Five thousand see Exeter lose to the Barbarians for the fourth time. Reached the quarter-final stage of the Pilkington Cup, losing out 76-0 to Leicester at Welford Road
· 1995 Reached the quarter-final stage of the Pilkington Cup for a second time, this time being beaten 31-0 by Wasps at the County Ground
· 1996 Courage League division four champions and secure a record sixth successive Devon Cup title when they beat Barnstaple 32-6 in the final
· 1997 Courage League division three champions
· 1998 Rob Baxter becomes the first Exeter player for 36 years to play for the Barbarians when he is a replacement against the Combined Services at Portsmouth. Since then he has been joined by his brother Richie, Sam Howard, Phil John, Andy Reed, Liam Mooney, Gary Willis and Alistair Murdoch.
· 1999 Exeter add “Chiefs” to the title of the Club. The Chiefs being a name that Exeter’s first team was occasionally known as during the 1930’s
· 2001 – December. Exeter Rugby Club unveil ambitious plans to redevelop the County ground to Premiership standards, culminating in a 10,000 capacity facility
· 2001 Exeter secure their best ever league position when they finish 3rd in National Division One behind Leeds and Worcester
· 2001/2002 11 Chiefs gain representative honours including 10 wearing England representative shirts. Four players, the Baxter brothers, Gary Willis and Phil Sluman are selected for the English national Divisions to play against the touring Australia and South Africa national teams.
· 2002 Exeter Chiefs once again secure their title as the country’s best semi-professional side by again finishing third in National Division One but with a better record than the previous season
· 2002 Exeter Chiefs reach their first ever National Cup Final and play their first game at Twickenham.
· 2002 The members of Exeter Rugby Club unanimously vote to relocate from the County Ground to a purpose built stadium ay Sandygate near Junction 30 on the M5.
Contact details: Neil Devons: 01392 687477
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