Premiership Ground focus: Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs Sandy Park
EXETER, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: Alan MacGinty of Sale Sharks kicks a penalty during the Aviva Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks at Sandy Park on March 25, 2017 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Sandy Park is fast becoming one of the Premiership’s most iconic venues to watch rugby. Known for its deafening atmosphere, the home of the Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park home-ground is one of the most difficult places for any side to visit.

With a vocal, and passionate crowd that is close to the action, it is very much your A-grade standard English rugby ground.

Last Word on Rugby’s Premiership Grounds focus continues, following on our popular profiles of Sixways, Franklin’s Gardens, Kingsholm and The Rec grounds.

Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park history

Chiefs moved from their original home, the County Ground, to the brand-new Sandy Park in 2006. At the time the capacity was just 6,000 but the move immediately almost doubled attendances.

The first competitive game at Sandy Park was against Coventry on the 16th of September 2006. The two sides played out a 13-all draw in a season which saw Exeter finish fourth in the Championship.

Since then Sandy Park has increased its capacity to 12,800 and regularly sells out. The stadium also holds a number of conference rooms and has a leisure centre next door. This demonstrates the need for the modern rugby stadium to generate alternative revenue streams.

Best Recent Matches at Sandy Park

2016/17 – Exeter 18 Saracens 16

Possibly the greatest moment in Exeter Chiefs history, certainly in the top three. This semi-final victory on the way to winning the Premiership was the tensest of affairs.

Exeter lead early in the second half through a Jack Nowell try but were pegged back by the defending champions, Saracens. In the dying second, Slade stepped up to find a monster touch finder which then resulted in a trade-mark pushover try to win the match. This one will live long in the memory for all Exeter fans.

 

International Rugby at the home of ‘the Chiefs’

For a relatively new stadium, Sandy Park has hosted its fair share of international rugby. In 2015 they were fortunate enough to be a World Cup venue. They hosted three Pool games including a tight encounter between Georgia and Namibia which finished, 17-16.

At the same time, Sandy Park was also included as the English leg of the European 7s Grand Prix Series. The tournament has been well supported whilst down in Exeter. As a result, the facility also hosted an England Women’s Six Nations match in 2019. The match against Italy saw over 10,000 tickets sold making it a huge success.

Expansion plans for Sandy Park

Given the regularity of sell-outs at Sandy Park and their financial position of strength, one would expect stadium expansions to be on the horizon. In 2012 a five-year plan development plan was announced. The overall goal was to enhance the capacity to 20,000.

Of course, this has not fully materialized although during the last six years, major work has been done. The conference room area has been enlarged and there have been some changes to increase the capacity slightly. Hosting Six Nations women’s International matches (see above) has also stretched facilities.

Nothing more has been announced regarding the stadium but that is not to say Sandy Park is likely to stay the same for the future.

Rob Baxter’s men have built an amazing fanbase in a short space of time. This is growing all the time and as a result, Sandy Park is fast becoming one of England iconic rugby grounds.

The growth has mirrored the growth of Exeter Chiefs. It is expected that there are plans to expand in the future we will be keeping our ears to the ground on this front.

 

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