Northampton Saints have announced that former club chairman Leon Barwell has lost his long fight against cancer.
Barwell, who stepped down from his Saints post last week, had been battling the disease for 18 months, but after a recent deterioration of his condition he passed away this morning, aged just 46.
A life-long Saints supporter, Barwell played an important role in the club's continued growth and development in the professional era. A member of the board of directors of Northampton Saints 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.
Acting chairman Tony Hewitt commented: "Today is a very sad day for everyone associated with Northampton Saints," he said. "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."
Chief executive Allan Robson said that Northampton Saints would not be the same. "Leon was a very popular figure, both within Franklin's Gardens and throughout Premiership Rugby," he commented. "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."