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Swim England is looking forward to a return to competition

Swim England has confirmed it is committed to enabling events to take place in all its disciplines as soon as it safe to do so.

The coronavirus pandemic led to the vast majority of Swim England’s national events calendar being wiped out in 2020 – along with numerous club, county and regional competitions.

However, George Wood, Swim England sport development director, said the recognised national governing body is working hard to ensure competitions can take place in 2021.

He said: “We know how hard it is at the moment with all pools closed but we also know how important competitions are to our members.

“Therefore we are setting out our thoughts on how we can return to competition when we are able to get back in the water.”

Here, George answers some of the most commonly asked questions from members.

How hopeful is Swim England of being able to stage events in 2021?

Everyone at Swim England is aching to see events take place and we are focused on enabling as many members as possible to take part in competitions this year. However, we have to be realistic especially considering the current situation we find ourselves in.

At this moment, with uncertainty still surrounding when pools will reopen and restrictions will be eased, we are taking a twin-track approach.

Firstly, we are looking at the period up until the end of August to see how and where we can enable competition to happen to give maximum opportunity to members whilst recognising this is nothing like a ‘normal’ season.

We are then focusing on delivering a great 2021-22 season and, hopefully, having an uninterrupted campaign from September onwards.

Are you aiming to stage an event in each discipline this year?

A key principle is that we want to structure competition to give as many members as possible the chance to get back to competing across all of our disciplines so this will guide our decision-making.

Whether these competitions are at a local, regional or national level will depend on this principle and, largely, on the restrictions that are in place and the format of the season for each discipline.

We are committed to ensuring events take place for as many people as possible and this is evidenced by Level X. We know how much members have missed that competitive element over the past few months and we’ve been thrilled to see so many swimmers enjoy taking part in Level X Racing before the latest national lockdown.

We are currently developing Level X for our category two members in all disciplines and further details will be published shortly ahead of pools reopening.

What work is going on behind the scenes in preparing for events in 2021?

Plenty. Our discipline leadership groups all have vast experience in competition planning and are passionate about our sports. They have driven the development of Level X competition and working alongside them, we are producing comprehensive guidance for delivering competitions in a Covid world.

The Swimming Leadership Group has also produced a detailed roadmap for the safe return to competition. Our other Discipline Leadership Groups are working on their own plans towards returning to varying levels of competition.

Planning needs to be flexible in order to deliver a style of competition dependent upon prevailing restrictions in a time and place. It is not a one size fits all across our various sports – whilst there may be some similarities, each present their own unique challenges.

The situation is regularly being assessed in terms of where and when we might be able to stage events. From a national perspective, we are considering what format competitions could take place during 2021 and options for dates and venues.

These will be communicated at a later date when we are able to confirm the exact details.

What are the biggest challenges in staging events in a post-Covid world?

At the minute, the restrictions imposed to help curb the spread of coronavirus means it is impossible for us to hold events. We all hope for a return to normality but it may be that there are still constraints when we do get the green light to stage competitions again.

We are looking at how we open up competitions across the country and so the challenges are a little different to staging one-off major events.  The biggest single consideration will be the safety of all involved in events, athletes, workforce, parents and fans.

There are several other key considerations underneath this main one. Firstly, we have to confirm that facilities are open and are comfortable with holding competitions under any measures that may be in place.

It is likely that we will need to look at the numbers of people we normally have at events for all our disciplines and think a bit differently to ensure that we can comply with social distancing whilst still delivering a positive environment.

Finally, any travel restrictions will have to be considered as clearly they will have an impact on competitions.  These are issues that the majority of indoor sports are facing – especially those that have large numbers of competitors at any one time.

Why hasn’t Swim England published an events calendar for 2021 yet and when do you hope to do so?

Our aim is to publish an events calendar as soon as we can. As mentioned we have created a roadmap for the return to competition in swimming and we have already moved forwards and backwards because of the national restrictions.

Therefore, given the lead time in organising events in all our disciplines, we feel it is prudent not to publish dates in the current circumstances. Had we moved ahead and scheduled events, we would no doubt have found ourselves in a position where we would end up cancelling them.

This would lead to logistical challenges, disruption and disappointment for workforce, organisers, competitors and spectators. As soon as we feel it is credible to publish dates for events, and the risk to them being cancelled has diminished, we will do so as we are passionate about the resumption of competitions.

Athletes and coaches need time to be able to prepare for competition so how much notice do you hope to give clubs for 2021 events?

Given the amount of time out of water, it is essential that athletes in all our sports have had the necessary amount of training so their fitness is at the right level before attempting to push themselves in a competitive event.

The amount of training time required will differ across sports, levels and will also be determined by time out of the water.

We must remember that competition organisers will also need time to do all the hard work that goes into a successful event and we want to minimise the risk of them having to cancel because of further restrictions.

The time that athletes need to prepare will give us a natural notice period for the recommencement of competition.  To that end, we would expect to be able to give several weeks’ notice prior to face-to-face competition recommencing.

Ultimately, we will try to give as much notice as possible whilst moving as quickly as we can – a challenging task!

How do you aim to create a level playing field when some clubs will be back in the water and others won’t?

It is frustrating that not all pools reopened after the first lockdown but we have to focus on getting competitions back on as soon as it is safe to do so.

We will attempt to give the maximum opportunity to as many members as possible but we know that individual and local circumstances may mean that some have more opportunities than others.

We realise that this may not feel fair to everyone but we are committed to offer competition as soon as it is safe and credible to do so – and hope that this will apply to the vast majority, if not all, of our members when that time arises.