Exeter Rugby Club was formed in 1871, playing in a field belonging to Mr Morrison (off the Exeter club website…don’t ask me!) and then moved tothe Militia Field behind the barracks. They played a majority of the next century at the Cricket Field at St Thomas – until moving to their current home, Sandy Park, from the 2006/07 season.
Most of Exeter’s transformation and progression occurred in the late 90s – with English rugby moving into the professional era. Exeter at this point set up a limited company structure – to run all of the club’s affairs through a board of 7 directors. This has played a huge part in Exeter’s rise in recent years, with sound financial planning it is seen by many now as a very well run club.
In 1999, the club looked at alternative ways to boost their popularity and business appeal – and rebranded themselves as the Exeter Chiefs.
In the late 2000s, the Chiefs were looking to force their way into the top flight. Coupled with their move to Sandy Park, they finished in 4th that season. In the next 2 seasons, they recorded back-to-back 2nd place finishes, behind both Northampton Saints and Leeds respectively.
In 2009/10, season, former England international Robin Cowling, Bob Staddon and Rob Baxter being tasked with getting the Chiefs promoted to the promised land. Baxter further recruited the services of Ali Hepher and Ricky Pellow, as his assistant and skills coach respectively. The Chiefs finished runners-up to Bristol, who they eventually faced in the playoff final. The Chiefs recorded a 9-6 victory in the first leg, with many pundits writing off their chances in the second leg. They defied the odds however – a phrase that Chiefs fans have probably heard a lot over the last few years – and recorded a 29-10 victory over Bristol, winning promotion as a result.
Again – pundits and fans favoured Exeter for an immediate return to the championship – however they laid the gauntlet down on the opening day of the season, beating Gloucester. In their first season they finished 8th, and since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength, with Rob Baxter at the helm, making some astute signings since gaining promotion. They played in the Heineken Cup for the first time in their history in 2012/13, and in 2013/14 they won their first piece of major silverware – the LV= Cup (Anglo-Welsh trophy), after beating Northampton Saints in the final.