ITV is to step into live para-sports coverage for the first time after announcing that it will televise the first ever BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge.
The announcement coincides with the 100 days to go milestone to the opening match, with the tournament at London’s Olympic Park, taking place from October 12-16, bringing together the World’s best “Murderball” teams.
London 2012 Paralympic gold medallists Australia return to the former Olympic Park, alongside silver medallists Canada and bronze medallists United States.
Hosts Great Britain look to capitalise on home support while New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and France also have their eyes on victory.
The event is to be held at the iconic 6,000-seated Copper Box Arena, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and forms part of the Rugby World Cup Festival.
As part of the arrangement, ITV Sport will show live evening matches of the hard-hitting sport on ITV4, marking its first major foray into para-sports coverage.
Competing nations have been divided into two pools and will battle it out for top position in each pool before the semi finals on Thursday, October 15, and a battle for medals on the Friday, October 16.
ITV4’s comprehensive coverage will include five hours of live action each day, brought to life by a team with a wealth of sporting and broadcasting talent, including presenter Martin Bayfield, the former England and British Lions player.
Alongside him will be Steve Brown, captain of the GB London 2012 Olympic Wheelchair Rugby team, and former England and British Lions player Ugo Monye.
Rachael Latham will be the channel’s courtside reporter throughout the tournament, while match commentary will be led by Simon Ward and Mike Spence.
David Pond, Chief Executive of Great Britain Wheelchair rugby, said: ‘GBWR is really excited that ITV will broadcast BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 2015.
“The tournament will feature the world’s best wheelchair rugby teams and run alongside the Rugby World Cup.
“ITV’s commitment to viewer experience and its ability to reach out and inspire new audiences will be great for the game and will build on the huge public interest following the success of London 2012′
The channel’s coverage of the event coincides with the closing stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which ITV is broadcasting every game exclusively live.
ITV’s Director of Sport, Niall Sloane, said: ‘We’re excited to be the broadcaster of this important new tournament which presents a fantastic opportunity to engage the public in a tremendous sport at the top level and entertain with first class live action.
“As the UK broadcaster of the Rugby World Cup, ITV is delighted to be able to offer viewers the perfect complement to that event and showcase the appeal of this fantastic form of rugby.’
Suzy Goodman, Head of Brand Partnerships, BT Group Marketing and Brand, said: ‘BT has a long history of supporting disability sport and we’re proud to be helping Wheelchair Rugby to grow and engage new audiences.
“The BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge will be thrilling. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the GB squad to test themselves against some of the best teams in the world, and I urge people to buy tickets and get behind the team this October.’
Originating in Canada in the 1970s, wheelchair rugby developed from the ‘murderball’ game, which was created by a group of disabled sportsmen.
One of the only full-contact disability sports, two teams of four aim to score by carrying the ball across the opposing team’s line. Players compete in specially-designed manual wheelchairs and must meet minimum disability criteria classifiable under the sport classification rules.
Wheelchair rugby was first recognised as a full medal sport at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. It has since featured at the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, and in London 2012, where the sport was featured prominently on Channel 4’s coverage.
The BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 2015 is part of UK Sport’s National Lottery backed #EveryRoadtoRio campaign, featuring over 30 world class sporting events across the UK to help our athletes qualify and prepare for Rio 2016.
Tickets are now on sale for the BT World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge, which takes place from October 12-16 at the Copper Box Arena, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.