Citi has become the founding partner of the newly-launched PARA SPORT programme ©Getty Images

Banking giant Citi has been announced as the founding partner of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) new PARA SPORT programme.

Para ice hockey is set to be benefit from the agreement, with Citi sponsoring the first-ever Women’s World Challenge in the United States.

Citi is partnering with World Para Ice Hockey to develop the new four-team, round-robin international competition, scheduled to be held from August 26 to 28 at the Cornerstone Community Center in Green Bay in Wisconsin.

The IPC described the move as a "powerful step in establishing a pathway for the first women's World Championships".

Citi's involvement in the Paralympic Movement began in 2012 when it sponsored the US team.

The global bank then formed a partnership with the IPC, running from 2018 to 2021.

"Initiatives like PARA SPORT and the Women's World Challenge have a remarkable power to drive societal change," said Ed Skyler, head of global public affairs at Citi.

"This new chapter in Citi’s support of Para sport is enabling us to turn our focus to the athletes and sport development programmes, broadening the impact we can make on the community level, and ultimately, helping to foster inclusion around the world.

"Our firm is incredibly proud of our partnership and remains steadfast in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion."

The inaugral Women's World Challenge is set to be held in the US later this year thanks to the support of Citi ©IPC
The inaugral Women's World Challenge is set to be held in the US later this year thanks to the support of Citi ©IPC

World Para Ice Hockey manager Michelle Laflamme hailed this as the "most exciting time in the history of Para ice hockey".

"Over the last year, there have been some positive advances in the female game with countries offering taster sessions for women and trying to build a community, which is exactly the ethos of Para sport," said Laflamme.

"The Citi partnership promises to turbocharge female engagement in Para ice hockey, as we will be able to offer repeated sanctioned events in women’s Para ice hockey for the first time.

"That’s not only exciting about the potential pathway, but it also sends a strong message to our members that we are dedicated to the development of women’s Para ice hockey."

The PARA SPORT programme was launched by the IPC last week with the aim of attracting new commercial partners.

IPC President Andrew Parsons vowed to "unlock the untapped commercial value of the Paralympic Movement" and claimed the PARA SPORT brand can help to secure more funding to support the grassroots level through to high-performance athletes.

The programme is underpinned by the three core elements "awareness", "community" and "freedom".