Swim England

A nation swimming

Jane Nickerson raised over 18s issue with MPs and warned of looming facilities crisis

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has again highlighted the plight of over 18s not being able to train with their clubs to a group of MPs.

During an appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Jane also warned that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a looming facilities crisis.

The hearing was discussing sport in our communities and Jane told the committee that over 18s swimmers were struggling to understand why it wasn’t deemed safe for them to train with their clubs.

She said: “One big issue we have left is over 18 swimmers who are not allowed to swim in their club sessions but can buy a ticket to swim in the lane next door.

“They really don’t understand this especially with chlorine being such a safe environment against the virus.

“I struggle every day to explain to my over 18s why they can’t swim in the same lane as their colleagues. Chlorine is very safe it absolutely kills the virus.

“I think the concern is that over 18s go in groups and socialise but swimmers don’t do that if they are training.

“They literally walk to the pool, they will be there as individual as they need to be, swim that session and get out.

“If we tell them to go home in wet swimming costume and a dry robe, that’s exactly what they will do. If we tell them to walk on their hands to get in the pool, they will do that.

“This is not about a group of 18 and older swimmers going out socialising before and after training. They go to the pool, train, go home to sleep and eat and they turn up the next day to do the same thing again.”

Protect the swimming facilities

Jane also raised how the pandemic had impacted on Swim England and the number of facilities in England – and why they needed protecting.

“Our organisation has been impacted massively with the closure of pools throughout the lockdown,” she said. “We have lost 26.8 per cent of our members, we have lost 68 clubs and we’ve had to completely change how we work as an organisation as we cut our workforce by 30 per cent and restructured.

“Long-term participation in swimming will be affected more by facilities rather than what’s happened to us as an organisation.

“We will rebuild our trading income but facilities is the biggest issue for us. Even pre-covid, we expected to lose a large number of pools in the next decade and that’s been exacerbated.

“We have an ageing pool stock and we have not been able to rebuild the pools as quickly as we need.

“There are plans in place to do that and we are working very closely with Sport England on a strategic plan for pools.

“The recovery funding has been very helpful but the funding gap following the latest lockdown has got wider and wider now.

“Facilities are in crisis but swimming is a fantastic activity.

“Around 14 million people swim regularly, it’s an activity you can do if you have limited land mobility and it saves the NHS and social care system so much money.

“We have to protect the swimming facilities.”