Former Northampton Saints chairman, Leon Barwell, has died following an 18 month battle with cancer.
The rugby club has confirmed Mr Barwell, who was 46-years-old, died at 9.30am on Friday.
The club’s acting chairman, Tony Hewitt, said: “Today is a very sad day for everyone associated with Northampton Saints.
“Leon was a massive part of the recent successes we have enjoyed, both on and off the pitch, and it is tragic for both the club and the Barwell family that he has been taken away from us just as the next chapter of his life was beginning.
“He was wholeheartedly committed to the club in every way possible, something that was demonstrated clearly in his determination to present the chairman’s awards at our end of season dinner only a few weeks ago and attend the Aviva Premiership Final.
“Going forward, it is vital that we continue Leon’s legacy and look to realise his ambitions for the team and the club as a whole.
“But in the immediate future I am sure that Saints supporters everywhere will join me in expressing heartfelt condolences to Keith, Maggie, Paula, Ella and the rest of the Barwell family.
“Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
Mr Barwell, who stepped down as chairman in early June, was a lifelong Saints supporter and a member of the board of directors since 1999.
He was a key figure in many of the club’s major projects over the past 14 years, including the development of Franklin’s Gardens and the initial share offering of Northampton Saints plc.
He was also a successful businessman outside rugby. A founding director of Vision Security Group (VSG) in 2000, he took over as Saints chairman following the sale of VSG to Compass Group.
In more recent months Leon had been spearheading a programme of engagement between the club and supporters, which had included the re-introduction of the annual open day and the start of regular public meetings between the Saints’ senior management and season ticket holders.
The club’s chief executive, Allan Robson, said the Saints would not be the same without him.
He added: “Leon was a very popular figure, both within Franklin’s Gardens and throughout Premiership Rugby.
“In a typical Barwell manner he was forthright with his views, but he never wanted anything more than for the Saints to succeed and club rugby to continue growing as a sport.
“Of course one of the things that both Keith and Leon strived for was a club that was sustainable for the long-term and not reliant on any one investor for its viability.
“We are in that position because of their principles and it is just a part of the legacy that we will look to continue.
“But this does not change the fact that everyone at the club is devastated by the news and Keith, Maggie, Paula, Ella and the rest of the Barwell family are at the forefront of our thoughts.”