End of an era at the Saints

The final committee of the Northampton Rugby Football Club © Northampton Saints

Club News End of an era at the Saints

This week has marked a seminal moment in the 130-year history of Northampton Saints. While the players were preparing for the Aviva Premiership trip to Harlequins, a number of their forebears were coming together in the Sturtridge Suite to mark the final ever meeting of the Northampton Rugby Football Club committee.

In the amateur era the committee was the equivalent of the current board of directors, ensuring both that the club continued as a going concern on and off the pitch.

Some of the decisions the committee made in its day were ahead of the time, not least the appointment of English club rugby’s first full-time director of rugby, Barrie Corless.

Corless attended the gathering, along with former Saints chairman Keith Barwell and all bar three members of the actual committee and other invited guests and their partners.

The final 13 men who made up the committee were Murray Holmes (chairman), Bob Taylor (secretary), Tony Cooper (treasurer), Mike Timbrell, Ron Slinn, Barry Nuttall, Austin Nightingale, Peter Larter, Peter Haddon, John Shurvinton, Jon Raphael, Gary Pearce and Brian May.

Holmes has combined his role as committee chair with a place on the Saints board of directors, and he says that it has been an honour to serve in the position.

“It’s been absolutely huge for me, and one of the greatest things that’s happened in my life,” he said. “I’ve been a Saints man all my life and to have the privilege of being involved in the running of this great club for 25-odd years has been fantastic.

“It’s been important to have the committee keep going as part of the club, perhaps less important as the years have gone on. But initially Keith was determined to maintain a lot of the ethos from the old amateur club into the professional club.

“Between the committee and Keith and the other directors I think we’ve managed to do that.”

One vital decision made by the committee was the welcoming of an investment from Barwell when rugby union became professional in 1995. And the former chairman said that the club would not be where it is were it not for the smooth transition to professionalism engendered by the committee.

“The committee have been totally brilliant,” he commented. “Without them there wouldn’t have been a Saints as it is today. Every club had to choose whether they went professional or not. We managed to take the best people with us and the standards that they maintained.

“Northampton was never slow to change and this committee will go down in history because it made some crucial decisions. You had the revolution, took on Barrie Corless as the first professional to run the team, and the committee had prepared the seed bed and the soil for us to go professional.”

Along with the decision to wind up the old members’ club, the committee recommended that half-a-million shares which had been held in trust on the members’ behalf be put up for sale and the proceeds donated towards the new North Stand.

This was duly voted through earlier this year and the shares bought, ensuring that the legacy of the committee will live on as Franklin’s Gardens continues to grow and develop.

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