Swim England

A nation swimming

Swim England and operators call for urgent meeting to address uncertain future fears

Swim England and facility operators have written a joint letter to Government ministers pleading for an urgent meeting to address the uncertain future facing swimming pools.

The recognised national governing body for aquatics has sent the letter 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).

It has been signed by Swim England Chief Executive Jane Nickerson and 12 key stakeholders who own or operate more than 750 of the 1,858 pools in England that belong to local authorities, community organisations, sports clubs or commercial enterprises.

There are fears hundreds of pools won’t reopen following the closures due to financial worries and the cost of bringing the pool out of lockdown.

In the letter, Jane writes: “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 utilised, 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.

Joint support

The signatories to the letter written by Jane Nickerson to the Government are:

  • David Bibby – Managing Director, Everyone Active
  • Alex Godfrey – Operations Director, Parkwood Leisure
  • Andrew Clark – National Sports and Aquatics Manager, GLL
  • Peter Kay – Chief Executive, Fusion Lifestyle
  • John Wileman – Head of Sport, Leisure and Business Management, Nottingham City Council
  • Tim Nightingale – Chief Executive, 1610
  • Mark Tweedie – Chief Executive, Community Leisure UK
  • Kieran Charles – Sports Facilities Business Manager, Tendring District Council
  • Andrew Snelling – Chief Executive, Sheffield City Trust/SIV
  • Simon Ferrarelli – Corporate Manager, Barnsley Premier Leisure
  • Geoff Wade – Active Communities Officer (Aquatics), GO Gateshead Sports and Leisure
  • Lisa Wainwright – Chief Executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance

“Furthermore, swimming pool operators, particularly Leisure Trusts, are currently falling between the cracks of most announced support packages.

“We recognise 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-emphasise 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.”

The operators that have signed the letter have worked with Swim England and the Government on pools reopening guidance, which is due to be published by Monday 15 June.