Exeter Chiefs


How The Chiefs have made Exeter ‘cool’

Over the last 10 or so years we have witnessed a sports team helping a city and its surrounding area to become ‘cool’.

The first time I went to watch Exeter Rugby was, I believe, around 1995 at the old St Thomas’ ground in the third tier of English rugby and I distinctly recall that, with my £5 ticket, came a free pasty and there was basically 3 men and a dog watching on!

In the Spring of 2010, five friends from Bampton and I hired a taxi to take us to Bristol to watch Exeter Chiefs in their quest for promotion, via the play-off, to the Premiership for the first time in their history. The Chiefs were self-confessed underdogs, but we thought we might enjoy the ‘craic’ in any case. Much to our surprise, they won and the celebrations lasted long into the night!

Wind forward to the following Autumn and, now referring to ourselves as ‘ The Bristol 6 ‘ , we are in another taxi transporting us to Sandy Park for the Chiefs’ first ever Premiership game against Gloucester. The same low expectations of the result, the same desire to enjoy the ‘craic’ whilst it lasted in any case, before the inevitable return to the Championship the following season, and yet, the same wonderfully surprising result.

Since then the ‘Bristol 6’ have made many trips to Sandy Park, as well as one famous visit to Kingsholm, as we watched Rob Baxter and his staff transform a collection of ‘journeyman pro’s’ from plucky underdogs to established Premiership club, to play-off challengers and eventually champions of England and Europe, bringing on Academy youngsters to blend with experienced stars and turning them into internationals and even British Lions.

Strange though it may seem, all this has helped to put Exeter on the map and boosted its growing image as a ‘cool’ area to live. The Chiefs have always been very involved in the local community and, in return, the community has taken them to their heart.

When they run out at Sandy Park and the announcer welcomes them as ‘your Exeter Chiefs’ that’s really how it feels.

When that 10 years from promotion culminated with the Premiership and European Champions Cup double in October 2020, I genuinely felt quite emotional, as if at the end of a long and exciting journey.

Strange that a mere rugby team can have such an effect on a city, but that’s the power of sport.  


Michael Clark