Swim England Chief Executive Jane Nickerson and 12 key stakeholders who own or operate more than 750 of the 1,858 pools in England have signed a joint letter urging the nation’s government to address with haste the uncertain future facing swimming pools.
Addressed to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the letter expresses fear about pools being unable to open due to financial worries due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacts.
Reads the letter, “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has rightly championed the importance of physical activity – this is a sentiment we wholeheartedly support.
“Additionally, schemes like the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme have been welcomed, and extensively utilized, by the sector.
“Many operators are having to adjust to losing 100% of their income as a result of the closure of swimming pools and are now at crisis point as a result of this loss of income and limited cash reserves.
“In addition, many swimming pool operators still have high costs, particularly fixed costs. For instance, the average monthly leisure utility and energy bill is £44,000.
“Furthermore, swimming pool operators, particularly Leisure Trusts, are currently falling between the cracks of most announced support packages.
“We recognize that discussions are underway between DCMS, MHCLG, Sport England, UK Active and CLUK around leisure centre, pool and gym funding and we would add our voice to re-emphasize the urgency of the situation.
“Without substantial additional financial support, there is a real danger that even when pools are allowed to reopen, many hundreds of them, including the majority of pools in public sector ownership, will not be able to do so due to financial pressures as a result of the closures and the cost of bringing the pool out of lockdown.
“We know that swimming improves people’s physical and mental wellbeing, supports community cohesion and saves the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.
“Swimming pools can tackle a number of the problems facing society, particularly at the moment, in a way that other sports cannot, with people of all ages able to enjoy them.
“For some, they are the only appropriate environment that enables them to be active and transform their lives. The closure of swimming pools would therefore compound the widening inequalities we are witnessing as a consequence of the pandemic.
“It is therefore vital that we ensure people still have access to these facilities in the future.
“To that end, we would be most grateful if you were able to meet with the sector to discuss the specific issues facing swimming pools and the additional support required to support the sector, and the 67,000 people employed within it.”
In the meantime, aquatic clubs may be eligible to receive financial assistance via a new crowdfunding venture initiated by Sport England and Crowdfunder. The 2 organizations have teamed up to make £1 million ($1.2m USD) of match funding available through the Active Together partnership.
Per an announcement on Swim England‘s site, Sport England and Crowdfunder will match the totals raised by clubs or charities, community, voluntary and social enterprise sector organizations that deliver sport and/or physical activity up to £10,000.
Charles Johnston, Sport England’s executive director of property, said: “The partnership with Crowdfunder is one of several ways we’re helping organizations survive during the pandemic and start to plan for the future.
“We’re supporting projects new to crowdfunding, so they can develop successful fundraising campaigns by engaging their local communities.
“It’s great to see the level of interest generated and we look forward to seeing how campaigns progress.”
Rob Love, Crowdfunder chief executive, added: “Grassroots sport plays a major part in millions of people’s lives across England.
“Keeping these community hubs alive throughout this crisis is essential, as their role in the rebuild and recovery of all our physical and mental wellbeing will be significant.
“Crowdfunding is about more than just giving. It allows clubs to diversify funding streams through a neat campaign, advanced sales and driving meaningful engagement between clubs, their members, and local communities.
“We’re proud to partner with Sport England to incentivize clubs to adapt to a new normal during these incredibly difficult times.”