Aviva Premiership
Club bosses cry foul on financial fair play
ESPN Staff
April 13, 2014
Exeter Chiefs' chief executive Tony Rowe celebrates his club's LV= Cup win, Exeter, April 5, 2014
Exeter chief executive Tony Rowe said the current situation is unfair on clubs that make a profit © Getty Images

A war of words has broken out among Premiership club bosses, with some unhappy at rivals "living beyond their means".

Saracens and Bath have reported huge losses for last season, leaving chief executives of profit-making clubs to question the state of financial fair play in the game.

As the Rugby Paper reports, Saracens posted an operating loss of £5.9 million for 2012-13, taking their overall deficit for the last seven completed seasons to a staggering £32.7 million. Bath, meanwhile, lost £3.8 million last season.

Wage bills at both clubs have also reached new heights. Saracens spent £8.1 million on staff last season, up from £7.5 million in 2011-12. Bath spent even more, splashing £8.8 million on wages for 2012-13 - £800,000 more than they did the previous year.

The losses are not just confined to the Premiership's leading clubs. Wasps and Worcester recently posted losses of £3.1 million and £3 million respectively.

None of the clubs has broken any rules and all receive backing from wealthy investors, but now bosses at other Premiership teams have voiced concern that they are being disadvantaged.

Northampton Saints chief executive Allan Robson has seen his club turn a profit for 13 consecutive seasons. He told the Rugby Paper: "Sport is about aspirations and everyone is chasing the golden egg of finals and silverware. But I'm not comfortable to hear of clubs losing £3 million or £6 million because it's not sustainable.

"It's a dangerous situation whereby clubs can live beyond their means for a period where they've got a group of wealthy backers. It's not against the rules and I have no problem with sugar daddies, but does it do clubs any good?

"Long-term I don't think it does because when that particular individual eventually disappears, the club is at the behest of finding someone to take their place. And if there's no one to do that, you're stuffed."

Exeter Chiefs chief executive Tony Rowe said: "We run Sandy Park as a business, which means we run at a profit. If we can't run at a profit then we shouldn't be in business. It does feel a bit unfair that other people can buy players and run sporting businesses as a tax loss. But things come home and bite you on the bum at some stage."

However, Saracens chairman Nigel Wray defended his club. He said: "This is a long game and we are playing it. I have no doubt we will create tremendous value here, both in the financial sense and in doing a lot for our community."

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