Catherine West MP and Swim England Chief Executive Jane Nickerson today met with Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston MP and MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Swimming Group, to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on swimming, the difficulties facing many pools and clubs, and the need to get pools open again as soon as possible.
The meeting comes at a time when all swimming pools are once again closed during the second national lockdown, with many still feeling the impact of the first lockdown.
Among the items discussed were the impact of the lockdown on swimming facilities across the country and need for a Sports Recovery Fund to help the sector bounce back stronger, the current situation for swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming clubs and the need to ensure pools are able to open as soon as possible when the lockdown ends. Research from Swim England had revealed that at the time of the second lockdown, approximately 15% of public swimming pools in England had still not reopened
Speaking after the meeting, Catherine said: “Up and down the country swimming pools are often hubs of their local communities, helping people lead healthier, active lives. They are particularly valuable for people with a range of health conditions which can make it difficult for them to exercise on land. It’s therefore crucial if we’re to avoid widening health inequalities, that we have the pools we need for the future. That’s why it’s so important that the Sports Recovery Fund is so important and why I will continue to stand up for swimmers in parliament.
Jane Nickerson said: “I would thank the Minister for making the time to meet with us to hear first-hand the current situation facing all our fantastic aquatic sports. I re-emphasised how vital it is for our clubs and members that swimming pools are able to open as soon as possible, in all tiers. It also remains Swim England’s belief that swimming pools should be classed as essential services and excluded from any further lockdowns because of the importance of physical activity and the huge positive impact being active in the water has on people’s physical and mental wellbeing, particularly those people who are unable to exercise on land.
Jane continued: “Before the second lockdown we were seeing an increasingly positive picture, with more pools reopening by the month. However we know that too many had still not been able to reopen their doors meaning many clubs were still facing difficulties accessing pool time, with many others being faced with increased pool hire fees. Additionally a number of pools that were open before the second lockdown were still facing an uncertain financial future operating on reduced footfalls. Therefore it is essential that a Sports Recovery Fund is provided to help facilities and our sports to come back stronger following the pandemic.
The Government is to be commended for its £100 million investment in leisure facilities which will have a real impact, and it was good to hear more details about this funding. However what is abundantly clear is that this money is not enough and that is why the Sports Recovery Fund is more important than ever as we seek to #SaveOurSports.”
Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister for Sport, added: “I recognise the importance of swimming pools to all those who enjoy swimming, diving, water polo or artistic swimming, and the immense health benefits going for a swim and being active in the water can provide. I know, therefore, how difficult the closure of pools during the second lockdown is for the community and I commend Swim England for their forceful lobbying on behalf of their members to have them reopened.
I don’t want to see swimming pools, or any sports facilities, closed for a minute longer than they need to be but the government’s priority has to be keeping the virus under control. The Secretary of State has made clear that grassroots sport and leisure facilities will be at the front of the queue to reopen and I would echo that sentiment. I want to see people back in the water, doing what they love, at the earliest possible opportunity once it is safe to do so. The Government is committed to helping people be active, as demonstrated by the recent announcement of £100 million in our leisure centres. This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of pounds of funding made available through Sport England to support sports clubs. We are continuing to work with organisations to understand what they need and how we may be able to support them further and I thank Swim England for contributing to this process.”