AN INNOVATIVE scheme to support up-and-coming athletes has been launched by Hampshire County Council.

The Fans scheme - Free Access for National Sports people - will allow athletes to use local leisure centre facilities for free during off-peak periods.

Only athletes in the current national squad for their sport, in the top ten rankings in the country, or a recipient of the county council's sport bursaries will benefit from the scheme.

Those who qualify can select up to three of the ten leisure facilities signed up to the scheme. In return they will be asked to take part in leisure centre open evenings and special events.

The move will dramatically reduce training costs.