|Boxing Hero Champions Robin Park's IFI Accreditation
Michael Watson with the Mayor of Wigan
Boxing hero and patron of the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) Michael Watson MBE, unveiled Robin Park Sports Centre and Arena as an official IFI facility on Friday 2nd September. The former Commonwealth Middleweight Champion was the special guest for an afternoon of sports activities designed to showcase inclusive sport at its best.
The IFI is a Sport England funded project that supports facilities across the country to make improvements in access, fitness equipment, staff training and sports development. The IFI aims to make fitness suites and facilities more freely available to people with disabilities.
Michael Watson, who was brain-damaged following his WBO Championship bout with Chris Eubank, is a true advocate of what can be achieved through physical activity. During his speech on Friday, he highlighted his appreciation for the improvements at Robin Park and Hindley Sports Centres, “Seeing the faces of the youngsters enjoying this great facility has really touched me. I feel blessed to be here today to witness this amazing sports complex in action. I hope I can inspire many more people with disabilities to come to these type of facilities and to work hard and show that they are the equal of able-bodied people.”
Rodney Hill, Chief Executive of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) said, “The Inclusive Fitness Initiative is a fantastic campaign and reflects our vision Getting Wigan Active which we hope will improve the physical and mental welfare of people across Wigan Borough. The huge strides taken at Robin Park and Hindley should go some way towards achieving this aim and anyone who knows the Michael Watson story will be inspired by his determination and self-belief.”
Some of the improvements carried out by WLCT that have helped lead to the IFI accreditation include:
- £70k spent to transform the cricket hall at Robin Park into a multi-games hall (used regularly by the disabilities sports club).
- £20k spent on improving access to Robin Park and to provide specialist equipment for gym users with disabilities.
- £110k investment at Hindley Pool to transform it into a specialist facility for swimmers with disabilities.
- Extra training for staff in Disabilty Equity and fitness instructors being trained to deliver safe and appropriate exercise programmes.
- A brand new inclusive fitness suite at Hindley Sports Centre costing £210k including improved access and specialist equipment.
As well as improving the profile of Robin Park and Hindley Sport Centres, the IFI recognition will also lead to the Trust employing Wigan Borough’s first ever ‘activator’. One of the key roles of the ‘activator’ is to work in the community to encourage people with disabilities to take part in sport and physical activity.
“The huge improvements made at Robin Park and Hindley mean that more and more disabled users from across the borough and beyond will have the opportunity to use these facilities and keep themselves fit and healthy,” said Darren Birch, Regional Manager for the English Federation of Disability Sports. “With the Paralympics coming to London in 2012 disability sports are now getting greater recognition. The new improved facilities could result in some athletes from the Wigan Borough competing at the London Games.”