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Premier Rugby teams up with GB Wheelchair Rugby

29 April 2004

Premier Rugby supports British Paralympic Association and GB Wheelchair Rugby Team in their quest for Paralympic success

Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation responsible for managing the 12 professional rugby clubs in England, today announced a new partnership with the British Paralympic Association and in particular the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Team. The partnership will include fundraising initiatives at the Zurich Premiership Final at Twickenham as well as establishing further links between the professional able-bodied players and the wheelchair rugby athletes.

Howard Thomas, Chief Executive of Premier Rugby, hopes the partnership will lead to more awareness of the wheelchair version of the sport amongst fans of the able-bodied game, "It is a natural partnership between the two sports and perfect timing as we approach the Paralympic Games later this year. There is a growing number of disabled supporters enjoying Zurich Premiership action and we are in the middle of a major audit into the services and facilities which we offer our disabled fans. From our point of view we hope the tie-in with the BPA will enable us to raise funding and awareness for both the rugby team and the BPA in general and look forward to working together over the coming months."

Phil Lane, Chief Executive of the BPA, said, "This is an exciting partnership for us, and comes just at the right time.  The British Paralympic Team is one of the most successful British sporting teams of all time and support like this will help us to stay at the top."

The Paralympics are being held in Athens this September and a team of 14 wheelchair rugby athletes will travel as part of Team GB.  The wheelchair rugby team are currently European bronze medallists and have already performed well in International tournaments this year.

If you would like to get involved in fund-raising for the British team or would like to help in other ways, please call the BPA on (0207) 662 8882 or log on to www.paralympics.org.uk.

For further information please contact Sally Price, Communications Manager, Premier Rugby on 020 8831 6727 or sallyprice@rfu.com

For further information on the British Paralympic Association please contact the Press Office on  01225 383 518.

Notes to editors:

Wheelchair rugby, formally known as murder ball, is unique to the Paralympic Games. It was invented in the 1970's in Winnipeg, Canada by persons who had become quadriplegics as a result of spinal cord injury to the neck. It is believed to be the fastest growing wheelchair sport in the world. After being a demonstration event in 1996 at the Paralympics in Atlanta, wheelchair rugby became a full medal sport in 2000 during the Sydney Paralympic Games.

Several of the athletes are members of the PRA.

Britain will be sending a team of around 220 athletes to compete in 15 sports when the Paralympic Games open in Athens on 17 September this year. The cost of sending the team, with support staff, will be around �1 million.