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Sports clubs given a helping hand to boost health
Friday 5th July, 2013

Sports clubs given a helping hand to boost health
Claire Taylor (Wigan Rugby Union Club), Owen Coyle (manager of Wigan Athletic), Lord Peter Smith (Leader of Wigan Council) and Howard Taylor (Wigan Rugby Union Club) at the launch of the Specfit campaign.

Sport clubs in Wigan Borough are to be given a major new role improving the health of people living in the area.

Sporting teams and voluntary groups will get funding to promote health and wellbeing among their members, their families and the wider population. The aim is to improve the health of people across Wigan Borough.

Wigan Council will provide more than £200,000 for the “Specfit” scheme which will be run with the borough’s Sports Council. Clubs can apply for nearly £2,000 per year for two years to pay for health related activities and a “health champion” who will work on ideas to get more people physically active and leading healthier lives. They can spend the money any way they like as long as it is used to tackle Wigan Borough’s major health issues such as obesity.

The area is recognised nationally for having a strong and well-established network of sporting teams and clubs, reflecting local people’s passion for sport. It’s hoped these clubs will be better placed to promote health messages as they are based in communities and run by residents.

A pilot project was launched last month with representatives from eleven clubs attended a training day where they were schooled on what can be done to encourage healthier lifestyles. Clubs must apply for the funding, which will be awarded through the Wigan Borough Sports Council.

It’s the second major community investment project Wigan Council has launched in less than a month. In June, the council unveiled its “Big Idea” campaign, offering £2 million to local groups or individuals who can come up with solutions to the borough’s serious social issues.

A host of the borough’s many sporting clubs have already expressed an interest in applying for the Specfit scheme. Among them is Wigan Rugby Union Football Club based in Douglas Valley. Claire Taylor from the club said they are keen to get involved. She said: “We’re already doing lots of work to reach out to people who aren’t already involved with the club. We run a gym at the ground which is open to the public and we are getting more and more people in.

“We would use this money to build on the work we are already doing. We have lots of ideas from improving the food we serve at matches to buying kit for different sports to entertain children who come to our games.

“I think this scheme is a really good idea because we will be able to spread health messages to a wider audience and encourage people to get involved with the club and come to our gym and get some exercise.”

Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “We’re very lucky to have many active and highly-organised sporting clubs right across Wigan Borough. We believe they will be able to communicate health messages to their communities in away professionals from institutions like the council would not be able to.

“This scheme, along with our Big Idea campaign, demonstrates the council’s commitment to investing in the community and seeking community-led solutions to the borough’s complex issues.”

The money for the Specfit scheme will come from the council’s public health budget. Local authorities took over responsibility for public health in April of this year.

Andy Clayton, chair of the Wigan Borough Sports Council and a member of a Wigan-based Judo Club, said: “The Sports Council is made up of 60 different clubs and each one of them is in constant contact with their communities. This means they are well-place to promote health messages and produce health-related activities for the wider public.

“We have some serious long-term health issues that need new to be addressed and I think this is a great way of using the existing network we have to do that.”

Clubs can apply for the Specfit funding at www.wbsc.org.uk.

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