The Enjoyment Police Claim Another Victim
What I am writing here is not really about Rugby, so don’t groan and stop reading.
It is about an emotional journey travelled by a group of people who had dreams and visions. The people came from a town in the southwest of England who decided their “ordinary” Rugby club could aspire to the very top.
Historically Rugby Union was an amateur game. To most players, the social aspect of rugby was as important as the actual playing.
The game, whether at a high level or low level, was played with intensity. The drinking and singing of the traditional bawdy rugby songs post-match were fulfilled with equal intensity. That’s the way it’s always been.
Exeter did not play at the highest level but were a respected team. Always one step down from the top teams in the southwest.
When Rugby Union turned professional in the 1990s, suddenly players got paid and the game got serious. (OK. I know a lot of players got paid unofficially before the day the cash machine light was turned on, but that’s another story).
Throughout Exeter’s history, their good players moved on to bigger clubs if they were invited. Bath, Gloucester, and Bristol were the top dogs in the region.
The folk running the Exeter team started to dream. They made plans. They moved their ground, improved their training methods, and improved their culture.
When in 2009 they beat Bristol in an end-of-season play-off, they moved to the top division for the first time. It was a big moment. The Premiership.
While some wrote off their chances of staying in the top division, the Exeter people didn’t. In their first season they took a few heavy beatings from the teams at the very top, but generally held their own and never looked like being relegated.
And they learned about what was needed to compete at the top level, and they learned quickly. They recruited new players. They no longer lost key players to other teams. Now quality players wanted to come and play for Exeter.
As Rugby Union teams explored the financial riches of the professional game, so Marketing and Brand Promotion became more…