Tributes paid to former Bristol Bears Rugby Club owner Malcom Pearce

Malcom Pearce owned the club between 1998 and 2003. Credit: Bristol Bears

The former owner of Bristol Bears Malcom Pearce has died.

Bristol Bears paid tribute to Mr Pearce - who owned the club between 1998 and 2003 - saying he played a "pivotal role" in "saving the club from extinction".

The club said he invested nearly £10million of his own money to support it through financial difficulty in the late-1990s.

Mr Pearce died today (February 17).

Paying tribute to him, chairman Chris Booy said: “Malcolm is a key figure in the history of Bristol Rugby and our thoughts and condolences go to Judy and the family on this sad day.

"Malcolm’s commitment to the club during some of its darkest years will never be forgotten and he will be so proud of where Bristol is now and the incredible progress we have made.

"Like Steve, Malcolm’s innovative approach attracted some of the best players in the game at the time to Bristol. He had immense pride in the city and rugby union and I was honoured to call him a great friend.”

Club historian Mark Hoskins, when reflecting on Pearce’s impact in his book Bristol Rugby: An Official History, wrote: "Bath born and bred, but with family roots in Bristol, he had seen his first game at the Rec at the age of five and despite having an executive box at Bath described himself as a “West Country rugby fan”.

"When asked how long he would remain with Bristol, his instant response was “as long as it takes Bristol to beat Bath at the Memorial Ground!”.

"Pearce’s passion and generosity were rewarded as a crowd of 4,500 turned up to cheer Bristol to a 55-14 demolition of Fylde, with Marsden scoring three tries.”   

A close confidante of Pearce, Ian Bell - who served as non-executive director between 1998 and 2003 - added: “He never shied away from unpopularity if he believed there was a longer term gain to be had.

"A name change to the Shoguns, a scheme to merge with Bath and a project which could have seen the club move to Oxford were attempts to provoke a reaction and ultimately a consortium did respond, to take the club forward.

“It’s testament to Malcolm’s far sightedness that the club is where it is today. He first came up with the idea of playing a big game against Bath at Ashton Gate, which at the time was a record attendance for a club match.”