20 Jul 2009
The ASA has today revealed how it will help shape the government’s Free Swimming initiative so swimming becomes a key activity in getting the country off their sofas and more active.

The ASA will work with Local Authorities and Pool Operators to ensure that the Free Swimming initiative (which is funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Children, Schools and Families and Communities and Local Government) will drive up attendances at pools and lead to more people swimming more often and having more fun.

The ASA will be building upon its work with Sport England on Everyday Swimming to ensure that the customer experience of the swimmers taking up their Free Swimming opportunity is one that inspires them to swim more often.

Throughout June and July the ASA has been holding ‘Free Swimming Roadshows’, to share with local authorities and pool operators the vital lessons the ASA has already learnt and to give pool providers participating in the Free Swimming scheme further details on the significant financial support available from government, via the ASA, for Free Swimming lessons.

David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA said: “The ASA has always enjoyed strong relationships with local authorities, who with their swimming pools are a very important partner in swimming, and now we are working together on a shared agenda to get many more people swimming to be more active and healthy.

“The investment of £140m into Free Swimming affords us both with a massive opportunity and one we should grab and use.

“But the ASA knows that Free Swimming on its own is not the only solution.  We need to change the customer experience, change public perception of swimming and move towards placing the customer at the heart of everything we do.”

The ASA, working in partnership with Sport England and five government departments including the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the Department of Health, has been commissioned to put in place a network of 49 Swimming Co-ordinators, who will be working at a county level with pool operators to further develop swimming.

41 of these County Swimming Co-ordinators are already in post and the ASA has also appointed Neil Fender as its new Director of Partnerships.

Neil has 22 years of varied commercial experience, the last 15 spent in a team-leading Director capacity.  Neil has always been involved in swimming, firstly as a competitor from the age of eight and retiring at 35 and secondly in teaching, coaching and chairing at Lutterworth Swimming Club.

In total, 259 councils across England (79 per cent of those eligible) have been offering Free Swimming from 1 April for the over-60s.  And 190 local authorities (equivalent to 58 per cent) have been providing the scheme for children and young people aged 16 and under.

Sparkes added: “This will be the first time that there has been a national structure to share best practice on how to deliver Free Swimming and will provide exciting opportunities to those councils that have opted in.

“The Department for Culture, Media and Sport still has the ambition to expand the scheme to every person who wants to swim by 2012 and we hope that those councils who currently haven’t opted in will soon see the benefits rather than the costs of Free Swimming.”

Swimming has been outlined by the government as a key activity because it remains the number one participation sport with close to 12m people swimming regularly but is also an activity that those who are inactive would consider more than any other.


For more information contact the ASA PR Officer Claire Freeman on 01509 632265 or email

About the ASA
The ASA is the English National Governing Body for Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Open Water and Synchronised Swimming. It organises competition throughout England, establishes the Laws of the Sport and operates comprehensive certification and education programmes for Teachers, Coaches and Officials as well as its renowned Learn to Swim Awards scheme. The ASA supports 1,220 affiliated swimming clubs through a National/Regional/County structure. The ASA aims to ensure everybody has an opportunity to learn to swim.

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