Barwell steps down as Saints chairman on ‘health advice’

STEPPING DOWN - Leon Barwell (Picture: Linda Dawson)

STEPPING DOWN - Leon Barwell (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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Saints have announced that Leon Barwell will be stepping down from his role as chairman with immediate effect.

Barwell has taken the decision on health advice, though he will remain on the club’s board of directors.

The 46-year-old took up the chairmanship from his father, Keith in September, 2011 and continued the club’s self-sustaining belief.

He continued to ensure Saints were profitable off the pitch and competitive on it, as well as providing solutions to problems at Franklin’s Gardens.

Barwell was a driving force behind February’s fans’ forum, which restored the relationship between the club’s supporters and those at the helm.

And he has also worked on other initiatives such as the recent open day in a bid to bring the ‘old-fashioned rugby club’ culture back to Saints.

“I have greatly enjoyed my time being chairman of this great club, and this is a decision that has not been taken lightly,” said Barwell.

“A lot of thought has gone into the decision, along with lengthy discussions with my family. I believe that the time is right for me to step aside, safe in the knowledge that we are on the right track, on and off the pitch.

“Over the past 18 months we have continued to improve and grow as a club.

“This would not have been possible without the hard work put in by everyone behind the scenes at Franklin’s Gardens, and I’d like to thank the staff for their continuing commitment.

“I would also like to thank the Saints supporters, who make the club what it is. Home and away they give the team wholehearted backing, and although there have been ups and downs, especially this season, I believe we have built up a good relationship.

“With six finals in six seasons, and the club continuing its good financial performance, the Saints is certainly heading in the right direction. I trust the board in making the right decision as to who the new chairman will be, and I will be giving him or her my total support.”

Although Barwell is stepping down as chairman, his family will maintain its majority shareholding of Northampton Saints plc, with Keith Barwell and Ella Barwell also retaining their directorships.

But the search now starts for a new chairman, with vice-chairman Tony Hewitt occupying the role until the board reach a decision on who will take over.

“Leon has been an outstanding chairman of Northampton, and someone who has worked unstintingly to take the club to the next level,” said Hewitt. “On behalf of everyone associated with Northampton Saints I thank Leon for everything that he has done.

“ Of course the Barwells will continue to be a big part of the Saints going forward, with Leon, Keith and Ella all remaining on the board.

“We will be taking our time to decide who will be the next chairperson, and will make an announcement in due course.”

Saints will be making no further comment at this time, and ask that the privacy of the Barwell family be respected.