Seven things you may not know about Exeter Chiefs’ CEO Tony Rowe

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In the most in-depth interview he’s ever given, Exeter Chiefs and SW Comms CEO/Chairman Tony Rowe told RUGBY about a life of powerboats, pop bands and fire engines. Here are some of the things he revealed...

He’s the son of a lion tamer

“I grew up in a council house, my mother and father split up when I was a baby, so I never met him but he used to work in the circus, as a ringmaster and lion tamer.”

 Tony greets England centre Henry Slade

Tony greets England centre Henry Slade

He was in the Navy and a pop band, while also delivering veg

“The furthest south I got was Gibraltar on an old battle cruiser, HMS Tiger. But it was easy, we’d start work at 8am finish at midday, and only put on our uniform to collect our pay packet once a fortnight. We’d all have other jobs, I drove a delivery van and played in a pop band in the evenings.”

He was a powerboat champion

“I was British champion and broke the water speed record. I didn’t earn much money, the prize money was next to nothing and every penny I earned, well, I got through a couple of marriages and had a great life for ten years.”

He went from boats to telecoms knowing absolutely nothing

“I wanted to start a telecom company and so I phoned up the guy who used to repair the boats. He said, ‘Tony, I’m a boat builder, I can’t even wire a fucking electrical socket, I said don’t worry we’ll get you on the courses’. He’s managing director of SWComms today.”

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He collects fire engines, with 36 full-size historical engines (and 350 little models)

“I saw one of the same fire engines looking all forlorn in this scrapyard at the garage,” says Tony. “The guy came over and said, ‘do you want to buy a fire engine?’ and I said, ‘fuck off’ and went. A year later, same thing, ‘you’ve come for that fire engine haven’t you’? And I said, ‘no, fuck off’. Anyway, I bought it.”

He’s given up on cross trainers

“You can see I’m a very fat man, so that cross trainer wasn’t exactly worn out! It’s ten years old, so I’ve decided to take it apart.”

He quit smoking when his son was born

“I was smoking probably five packets of Hamlets a day – really heavy smoker. And while I was three or four stone lighter than I am now I probably wouldn’t be alive today if I’d carried on the way I was – him coming along was wake up call for me.”

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To read the full ten-page interview, get your copy of RUGBY, the sport’s new quarterly, here