Swimming clubs in 'no-win situation' unless government steps in to help
Posted: Mon, 21 Sep 2020 14:25
Dozens of swimming clubs across the country could be facing closure because of price hikes implemented by pool operators after lockdown.
The sport's governing body Swim England has revealed that 44 of its member clubs are facing "substantial" price increases and reduced pool hours as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prime minister's local swimming club in the Oxfordshire town of Thame is among those affected.
"It would be devastating if we had to close," said club chairman Phil Evans, who looks after Thame's 130-strong membership.
"There's a real concern about the children's mental health, it would have a big, big impact on them.
"We made a loss last month and we can't ask parents for more money because we know people are struggling. Our fees have shot up by 50% and our pool hours have been cut back too."
Pool operator Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) has described the situation as a "national crisis" and urged the government to help in the same way it bailed out the hospitality sector.
In a statement to Sky News, GLL said: "Following four months of zero income due to lockdown and now operating at 25% capacity in order to be COVID-secure, GLL, like all pool operators, is under huge financial strain.
"With no specific funding available, pools are at risk across the UK and we are deeply perplexed and frustrated by the lack of financial support available from government."
Pools were given the green light to reopen at the end of July, but with reduced capacity and shorter pool hours.
Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said the clubs and the leisure industry are in a "no-win situation".
"It terrifies me, it absolutely terrifies me," she told Sky News.
"Everyday feels like a rollercoaster, like we are in a battle. If the pandemic continues to spike, all bets are off.
"Most of the clubs make good income from holding open meets and they haven't been able to. The really important thing is that the government steps in and helps the leisure sector. We know it's not a bottomless pit of money but swimming provides wonderful healthcare benefits."
Swim England estimates that the sport saves the NHS around £357m every year due to the positive physical and mental health benefits derived.