Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Sir Philip Craven for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Sir Philip Craven represented Great Britain at 5 Paralympics before becoming a leading sports administrator and President of the International Paralympic Committee. He has used a wheelchair since breaking his back in a climbing accident in the 1960s and is on a mission to erase the word ‘disabled’ from the sporting vocabulary. He observed recently that "No country in the world has got the right overall attitude toward people with a perceived disability. Disability is a perception, not a truth," adding for emphasis, "The fact my legs don't work is irrelevant as my wheels are twice as good as people's legs."
Philip Craven was born in Bolton in 1950 and attended Bolton School where he excelled at swimming, tennis and cricket. In 1966 when he was 16, he suffered a life-changing accident during a rock-climbing expedition at Wilton Quarries near Bolton. He fell 10 metres on to rocks, broke his back and lost the use of his legs. During rehabilitation at Southport Spinal Injuries unit, he watched a game of wheelchair basketball for the first time and received a major boost from the realisation that he would still be able to play sport. Whilst studying for an honours degree in Geography at the University of Manchester, he became actively involved in basketball, training with regular basketball players. He then joined Stoke Spitfires Wheelchair Basketball Club and such has been his impact that he is now regarded as one of the all-time top five wheelchair basketballers.
In 1972, he was a basketball and swimming Paralympian in Heidelberg and competed in the next four Paralympics in Toronto, Arnhem, Stoke Mandeville, and in 1988 in Seoul where the Paralympians competed in the same venues as the Olympians for the first time. Philip also competed at the highest level in basketball and swimming in numerous other tournaments, including representing Great Britain the 1973 World Championship and 1974 European Championship.
From 1986 to 1991, Philip deployed his administrative skills as Group Head of Administration at the British Coal Corporation. After his retirement from international sport, Philip worked as a wheelchair consultant before becoming a full-time sports administrator, applying his considerable talents to the task of promoting Paralympic sport. He was President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation from 1988-2002, and is currently a Director of the BOA and Vice President of the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association. He also sat on the board of the London 2012 bid company and is now a Board Member of the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Since 2001, he has been President of the International Paralympic Committee and is their representative on several international organisations including the Foundation Board of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Administration Council of the International Committee for Fair Play. He is also a member of the International Olympic Committee which provides him with the opportunity to promote the idea of the London Olympics as “Britain’s Games”, with opportunities for the whole country to benefit and use the Games to boost sport, physical activity and health in the regions.
His outstanding achievements in sport have been widely recognised:
- Gold Medal of Youth & Sport, France in 1973
- in 1991, he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to wheelchair basketball
- in 2003 at the re-opening of the Stoke Mandeville Stadium, he was inducted into the Stoke Mandeville Hall of Fame, which honours the great men and women of Paralympic Sport
- Order of Merit of the Italian Republic 2006
- Honorary degrees from the University of Nottingham, MMU and Staffordshire
- In 2006 he received the Juan Antonio Samaranch Disabled Athlete Award in acknowledgment of all he has done for the world of sport.
- And in 2005, he was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Paralympic sport.
Sir Philip now lives in Cheshire but remains proud of his Bolton roots. He is married to Jocelyne and has two grown-up children, Gaëlle and Yann. In his spare time Sir Philip keeps fit through regular roadwork and enjoys occasional basketball, gardening and wine – a serious enough interest for him to have been made a Knight of the Ducal Order of the Cross of Burgundy in 2007.
Sir Philip Craven’s experience since he broke his spine is phenomenal and can be attributed not only to his physical gifts and intelligence but also very much to his attitude. In the spinal injuries unit shortly after his accident, his view was, “This is no big deal, I can still play sport”. Alongside his well-documented sporting achievements, he gained an honours degree and became a top business administrator and is now one of the world’s leading sports administrators, determining the future of international sport with the World’s Great and the Good. Remarkable achievements for someone who was described recently as “an ordinary down to earth guy who loves sport”.
His positive approach to life has stood him in great stead and is summed up in the following quote:
"A lot of the barriers that people perceive have been knocked down by persons with a perceived disability because we are just not standing for being treated differently. We are people of the world like anyone else. I don’t like the word disabled – it’s a negativity and shouldn’t be used. The great thing about paralympic athletes is that they get on with using what works and don’t worry about what doesn’t."
This message about playing to one’s strengths and maintaining a positive attitude has resonance for everyone, not least those graduating today. Sir Philip’s inspirationally positive approach to life has clearly served him well and makes him an ideal recipient of our highest honour.
Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Sir Philip Craven, MBE, this inspirational role model, this outstanding sportsman and sports administrator, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.
Professor Frank Sanderson
Friday July 24th 2009