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BT announces partnership with GB Wheelchair Rugby

GB team aim for success at the inaugural BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge during the 2015 Rugby World Cup this autumn.

Today BT further demonstrated its commitment to disability sport by announcing a three year partnership with GB Wheelchair Rugby (GBWR). BT will become the Official Principal Partner of GB Wheelchair Rugby, as well as the Official Communications Partner. BT is a long-term supporter of disability sport in the UK, and through this partnership will work with GBWR to continue the transformation of the sport and drive levels of engagement.

David Pond, CEO of GB Wheelchair Rugby, said: “It’s fantastic to have BT behind us as we continue to grow Wheelchair Rugby over the next three years. Not only will the BT GB team benefit from the partnership as they prepare for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, but thanks to BT we’ll be able to build our Club National Championships into a high quality event and get more people than ever playing the game in their local communities all over the UK.”

Suzi Williams, BT Group Marketing and Brand Director, said: “Disability sport doesn’t just inspire us all to be the best we can be, it’s also about world class athletes and competition at the highest level. That’s why I couldn’t be more delighted to announce our new partnership with GB Wheelchair Rugby. We’re looking forward to working with GBWR, creating more possibilities than ever before for people to engage with, be inspired by, and have a go at the sport.”

England International rugby union star, Mike Brown, an Ambassador to GB Wheelchair Rugby, said: “Wheelchair Rugby is fast and thrilling, with huge potential to grow. It’s fantastic to see the plans that BT and GBWR are putting in place to drive the sport forwards, enabling many more people to get involved.”

In 2015, the BT GB team will face seven of the world’s top nations in the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge. The tournament will take place at the Copper Box Arena in London from 12-16 October, when the IRB 2015 Rugby World Cup experiences its change over period between the pool to knockout stages. The BT GB national team is currently ranked No1 in Europe and 5th in the world and will be competing against London 2012 Paralympic medallists USA and Canada, plus Japan, South Africa, France, New Zealand and current world and Paralympic champions Australia.

Mike Brown said: “The BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge is a brilliant idea. It’s being staged right in the middle of the Rugby World Cup and will generate plenty of interest in Wheelchair Rugby at a vital time for the sport.”

BT is also supporting several GBWR community programmes to increase participation in Wheelchair Rugby. This year GBWR aims to create three new clubs around the UK and will develop six youth teams. By 2018, GBWR aims to have enabled 400 young people between the ages of 8-18 to take part in a six-week introduction to the sport.

David Pond said: “The BT Wheelchair Rugby community activity will allow us to begin developing the first ever wheelchair rugby national youth programme. It will also help us expand our current Sport England funded programmes to grow the sport.

According to the Spinal Research charity, 800 people suffer a spinal injury every year in the UK and GBWR has a strong relationship with many of the Spinal Injury Units across England, Scotland and Wales. The additional support of BT will enable GBWR to further provide opportunities for individuals who have recently suffered spinal injuries.

BT and GBWR will also work to increase the visibility of the domestic club competition through the BT Super Series and help develop the BT National Championships into a high quality event for players and spectators. This year the championships will involve 17 leading Wheelchair rugby teams in a knock-out competition over the May bank holiday weekend, 2-4 May, at the Copper Box Arena, London.