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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Bristol boss quits club
Bristol players and coach Peter Thorburn (centre) reflect on relegation
Bristol have been relegated from the Zurich Premiership
Bristol owner Malcolm Pearce has relinquished control of the troubled club.

Pearce, who has been bankrolling Bristol since he took it over five years ago, said he could no longer commit funds to the club.

"I will endeavour to do my best to leave Bristol on a good base, but financially, I can no longer support the club," he said.

Pearce announced earlier in the season that he was planning to leave Bristol, who were relegated from the Zurich Premiership at the weekend.

Pearce arrived at Bristol in 1998, rescuing the club from financial oblivion.

However, he has become an increasingly unpopular figure among the club's fans in recent months because of talks about a possible merger with neighbours Bath.

He oversaw some significant achievements, including reaching last year's Zurich Championship play-off final and clinching Heineken Cup qualification for the first time in the club's history.

Pearce said a number of groups had approached him about taking control of the club and added that one of the options was forming a supporters' trust.


"We are in discussions with various interested parties, including a consortium of Bristol businessmen and former players," said Pearce.

"They have expressed the desire and willingness, and there is also the possibility of setting up a supporters' trust."

Pearce refused to answer questions about speculation linking him with a move to Bristol's fierce local rivals Bath.

It is understood that Pearce has held talks with his Bath counterpart Andrew Brownsword and could even become a major shareholder at the Recreation Ground.

Bath avoided relegation on the final day of the season after they beat Newcastle and Bristol lost away to London Irish.

Pearce said Bristol would continue to play at the Memorial Stadium in Division One.

Bristol have already seen a number of players leave the club and more are expected to follow, with Pearce confirming that whoever took over the club would be unable to support the current wage bill.

But Pearce also insisted that a number of players had expressed a willingness to stay at the club, while Mitsubishi Motors could also continue as main sponsors.

Former Bristol captain Mike Rafter may be a major player off the field at the club next season, while there is also every possibility Peter Thorburn will continue as coach.

Former Bristol owner Malcolm Pearce
"The club needs to be self sufficient"

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