Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club now plays professional rugby in the top flight of domestic rugby, the Aviva Premiership, after years of steady progression up through the leagues. The club is now the beacon of professional rugby in the South West and regularly attracts crowds of around 9,000 to their 10,500 capacity home ground, Sandy Park.
Following years’ of progression through the English league system and a gradual increase in investment by local business and larger sponsors, Exeter Chiefs’ board took the decision to cement their ambitious intentions by relocating from their historic County Ground home in Exeter to a purpose-built stadium on the edge of the city in 2007. The move promoted a cultural shift at the club with a new director of rugby appointed to run the playing side. Extra facilities were also needed to embellish the Sandy Park experience, including radio communications.
The coaching team and medical staff all needed radios on a match day, as well as a whole host of stadium staff, including key managers, stewards and car park attendants. Furthermore, the referees and touch judges also needed to remain in constant contact throughout the duration of a game.
Premier Communication Electronics (PCE) provided Exeter Chiefs with the following:
- Motorola CP040 radios
- Kenwood PMR446 radios
- 1 repeater
- Ofcom licences for 3 frequencies
PCE supplied a mix of two-way analogue radios to suit Exeter Chiefs’ range of needs. Both types are easy to use and require minimal training, which is useful in an industry when staff can be changeable.
The Motorola radios keep members of the coaching and match day staff in touch without distracting them with complicated features. The head coach can monitor all the voice traffic and get a message to the other members of the coaching team in seconds.
The Kenwood’s are handheld radios that are also licence-free, which helps keeps costs to a minimum. They are ideal for on-site communications in built-up areas up to 500 metres whereas in open country, the Kenwood radios can reach 3km and beyond. These are used by non-coaching staff.
A repeater was also installed in the security tower at the ground to boost the range of the radios to reach the staff working at the car parks on the nearby Sowton Industrial Estate or at Friends Provident and Westpoint on the other side of the M5.
The club required three separate frequencies to ensure the coaching group’s conservations and the referees’ instructions were not shared with the rest of the match day staff and each other. PCE applied for the licences for each frequency to save the club from having to get involved in this process.
Radios are crucial for the smooth running of a professional sports club both on and off the pitch. It is a critical tool for the coaching, medical and fitness staff in terms of relaying information about injuries, player replacements and tactics. All of Exeter Chiefs’ 11 playing staff use radios connected to D-ring ear-pieces to maintain the group’s privacy allowing each member to speak to the entire group at once to ensure messages are heard and understood by everyone to ensure instant reaction. These handsets are used on home match days and are transported for use at away venues too.
Radio communication for non-playing staff is equally critical as health and safety is paramount with nearly 10,000 people attending every home game. A total of 26 match day stewards and security staff are provided with radios ranging from handsets with D-ring ear-pieces to push-to-talk microphones to ensure emergency messages can be transmitted to the entire group. The club’s management also use them to remain in contact across what it is a very large site to ensure they can react to any situation that may arise and make decisions quickly in consultation with all relevant parties.
PCE also maintains the club’s radios as when they is a requirement and services them annually as part of its service level agreement.
On reaching the Premiership in 2010, Exeter Chiefs decided it required a more secure form of radio communication and decided to upgrade its analogue equipment to digital. This ensured the coaches’ group communications could not be overheard or scanned. The club has received 12 Motorola MOTOTRBOs DP3400 to use on match days. The Kenwood radios previously used by the coaching staff are now being used by the club’s bar staff.
Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter said: “Instant communication during a match is crucial and can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing a game. We want to make sure we can messages onto the pitch as quickly as possible and that our medical and fitness staff can get messages back to us just as quick. PCE has always understood our very specific needs and has always been quick to react to any maintenance or changes we have required.”
Exeter Chiefs deputy chief executive Keiron Northcott said: “We employ 140 non coaching staff on a match day and it is of the utmost importance that we can remain in contact with them. Our staff are not just based at Sandy Park but in the surrounding car parks too, so we needed a solution that would reach all those areas as well as being effective both around the ground and inside the stadium itself. We rely on PCE’s radio solution to ensure we can instantly react to any situation that might arise on a match day.”