Northampton wants to be first listed rugby club

Northampton is set to become the first rugby union club to float on the stock market under plans being drawn up by Keith Barwell, who bought the First Division club five years ago.

Mr Barwell, who is understood to have had talks with City brokers, is considering the idea to raise the funds necessary to improve Northampton's Franklin's Gardens stadium. Several other rugby union clubs, notably Leicester, have toyed with the idea of obtaining a listing, but Northampton would become the first actually to do so. Wasps, the West London club, is owned by Loftus Road, the quoted company which also owns Queen's Park Rangers football club.

Since paying £1m for Northampton in 1995, Mr Barwell has placed the club on a more commercial footing than most. However, although one of the most successful on the field, having this season reached the finals of both the domestic Tetley's Bitter and European Cup competitions, it is still making a loss.

There are high hopes a meeting on Tuesday of the 12 First Division clubs will sanction a new financial plan. Mr Barwell says the plan, which would guarantee each club £1.8m annually, would turn an £800,000 deficit to a £1m profit.

Nick Batram, sport and leisure analyst at stockbroker Granville Baird, said: "The plan would give rugby a more controllable cost base. The good thing about the sport is that power is concentrated in the hands of just a few clubs."

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