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****Embargoed for 1st October 2004****
****Note that there is photocall opp at 11.30am on 1st October in London****

1st October 2004

Watson Fights for Health & Fitness of Disabled People
Campaign Marks Biggest Ever Change In Fitness Industry For Disabled

Ex-boxer and national hero Michael Watson began a new fight today, as he officially launched the first sites to become part of the £5m Inclusive Fitness Initiative, funded through the Sport England Lottery Fund.

The former middleweight star – who astounded medical experts with his progress following brain damage received in a title fight against Chris Eubank – was announced as patron of the national scheme this morning. The Initiative is behind the biggest change in the fitness industry for disabled people there has ever been.

Watson was told he would be lucky to walk again after suffering his injuries in the boxing ring in 1991, but today he was at the Waltham Forest Pool and Track facility in London to head the launch.

The new project will help not for profit facilities across the country cater for both disabled and non-disabled users, by offering financial assistance and expertise and by increasing awareness.

Today the Initiative opened nine facilities simultaneously across England, and Watson was on hand to give his full backing to the programme and the principles it represents.

Speaking at the launch, Watson said:
“In my life I have faced many battles, and many challenges. Key to overcoming these has been determination, belief and hard work. They said I’d never walk again, and I completed the marathon. I did that through hard work at facilities like this. And I’m still in great shape.

“We need more fitness facilities like this one that everybody can use, and we need to encourage people to use them. That’s what today is about, and what the IFI is about – health and fitness for everybody.”

News of the Initiative’s national launch coincides with part three of the Disability Discrimination Act, which comes into force across the country today. The act will highlight failures across services in the UK to adequately meet the needs of disabled people in many areas of everyday life.

With the Government setting targets of 70% health and fitness participation amongst disabled people by 2020, the IFI is actively combating these failures in the areas of fitness, health and sport.

Run under the auspices of the English Federation of Disability Sport, the IFI worked with 29 not for profit fitness facilities in a highly successful pilot scheme. Thanks to further Lottery Funding from Sport England, it will now expand to support 150 facilities across the country, and by June 2005 over 50% of local authority areas in England will have an Inclusive Fitness Facility.

Roger Draper, chief executive of Sport England, said:
“A key objective of Sport England is to increase participation in sport and physical activity at all levels among people of every background and ability.

“We are delighted to see our £5 million investment come to fruition in the form of these IFI facilities across the country, which will ensure disabled people are given more opportunities to take part in physical activities and pursue a healthy lifestyle.”
ENDS

Photocall
You are invited to a photocall with Michael Watson on Friday October 1, 2004 from 11.30am. Michael will be available for interview – please book with Sam or Adrian (below) in advance as interview opportunities are strictly limited.

Date & time: 11.30am, Friday October 1
Place: Waltham Forest Pool and Track, Chingford Road, Walthamstow, E17 5AA


Notes to Editors
Inclusive Fitness Initiative facilities opening nationwide today:
Waltham Forest Pool and Track – London
Aspire National Training Centre – Middlesex
Forest Fitness Centre – Cinderford
Kensington Community Sports Centre – Liverpool
George H Carnall Leisure Centre – Manchester
Winsford Sports Complex – Vale Royal, Cheshire
Witchford Village College – Ely
Craven Swimming Pool – Skipton
Aldersley Leisure Village - Wolverhampton

There are almost ten million adults in the UK with a disability, 22% of the population, with combined spending power of between £40 and £50 billion.

The Inclusive Fitness Initiative is a £5million Lottery Funded Programme supporting the fitness sector to become inclusive, catering for disabled and non-disabled people alike. Grant aid is available to not for profit facilities to support them to become inclusive, but all the components of the scheme have relevance to the private sector. The four key areas cover fitness equipment, staff training, marketing strategies and inclusive development.

More information on IFI is available at the website www.inclusivefitness.org.


For more information, interviews or feature opportunities please contact:

Sam Potter 07838 239 667 or
Adrian Johnson 07734 850 685 adrian.johnson@poultergroup.com
Poulter Partners PR

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