Northampton Saints' Barwell Stand officially opened

The newly completed Barwell Stand Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The newly completed Barwell Stand will be officially opened ahead of the London Irish match

A new £6m stand has been officially opened at Northampton Saints' Franklin's Gardens stadium.

The Barwell Stand, which took five months to construct and will house 2,000 fans, was named as a tribute to former chairman Keith Barwell.

The official opening followed the completion of a hospitality suite, with the stand having been open since November.

Saints beat London Irish 35-7 at a stadium now able to hold 15,500.

'Important influence'

Mr Barwell invested millions of pounds in the club while chairman and remains a major shareholder.

Image copyright David Rogers
Image caption Keith Barwell recruited the club's current director of rugby, Jim Mallinder

He recruited the club's current director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, who said Mr Barwell is still an important influence.

He said: "I met Keith when I was at Sale and I realised then what a great believer he was in the club game, but particularly Northampton.

"Not just the club but the town as well, he has supported the town - and that's the reason he likes the rugby. He likes to go into the pubs and see his friends and talk about how successful the club has been. It means a lot to him that the club is successful."

Since 2001 the stadium has been expanded three times. In that time the capacity has increased from below 10,000.

The new Barwell Stand, which was first used for the home game against Saracens on 7 November, represents the single biggest leap in capacity in the history of Franklin's Gardens.

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