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Mark Hoskins

Mark Hoskins writes

Posted Thursday, February 17th 2022

Obituary: Malcolm Pearce

Bristol Bears pays tribute to former owner Malcolm Pearce, who sadly passed away, surrounded by family, on Thursday, February 17th.

A close friend of Chairman Chris Booy, Pearce played a pivotal role in saving the club from extinction during his time at the helm between 1998-2003.

Pearce led Bristol through a turbulent period, rescuing the club from financial oblivion in the late 90s and investing nearly £10m of his own money to ensure survival. During his tenure, Pearce attracted World Cup winning coach Bob Dwyer and the former England and Bath coach, Jack Rowell to the club, as well as players such as Agustin Pichot, Henry Honibal, Jason Little and Daryl Gibson, as well as the likes of Julian White, Garath Archer and Dean Ryan.

Chairman 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.

“Nothing will have given Malcolm more pleasure than to see how Steve and the Lansdown family have built upon those foundations to enable Bristol Bears to realise our great potential. 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 published book, Bristol Rugby: An Official History writes: “Pearce produced a brilliant public relations stunt for Bristol’s opening home game a week after the Exeter victory, offering free admission to everyone.  He himself stood at the gate from around noon to greet arriving supporters personally, though he did have to explain to one gentleman that the free admission was only for the first game and not a permanent innovation!

“Earlier he had given the most upbeat of interviews to the Evening Post, revealing his deep passion for the game of rugby. 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: “Malcolm was forced to think outside the box. 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.”


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