Leisure industry mourns the death of Steve Franks, CEO of Water Babies
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Leisure industry mourns the death of Steve Franks, CEO of Water Babies

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The physical activity sector has been left in shock by news that Steve Franks, the long-serving chief executive of Water Babies, has died following a short illness.

Tributes and condolences have flooded in on social media for Franks, an industry veteran who spent six years as operations director at the Swimming Teachers' Association (STA), before being appointed CEO at Water Babies in 2009.

Franks had been involved in the UK sport and leisure industry in a senior management capacity for more than 25 years, across both private and public sectors. His leisure career began in 1997 as leisure services manager at Lichfield District Council.

During his career, he was a technical author for a number of British Standards – aimed at creating industry best practice for the swimming and aquatics sector – and a member of two All-Party Parliamentary Groups, including one for swimming.

He was also a passionate advocate of children's physical activity, becoming the lead spokesperson for Children First, a national campaign to encourage the government to put children at the heart of all decision-making and to get a dedicated minister for children and young people.

Franks also sat on the ukactive's Kids council as board member.

Tweeting her condolences, Jane Nickerson, CEO of Swim England, said Franks' death was due to complications related to COVID-19.

"Very sad day today," she said in her tweet. "Good friend has lost the Coronavirus fight. RIP Steve Franks. Your work for baby swimming will live on. I will miss our lunches and catch-ups. Definitely a friend as well as a Swim England colleague."

ukactive Chair Tanni Grey-Thompson and ukactive Kids Council Chair Adrian Packer issued a joint statement, saying "The board and team at ukactive are devastated by the news".

"Our hearts go out to his family and the team at Water Babies," the statement reads.

"His contribution to improving the health of children will always be recognised, as CEO of the hugely successful swim school organisation, or through his leadership as part of the ukactive Kids Council.

“Steve’s passion and energy for changing children’s lives inspired us all. He is a huge loss to our movement, and we will be more determined than ever to deliver his ambition to improve our children’s health.”

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The physical activity sector has been left in shock by the news that Steve Franks, the long- serving chief executive of Water Babies, has died following a short illness.

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