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Time to step up the fight to ensure the future of our facilities and sports

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson explains why it’s time to step up the fight for funding for facilities in a bid to #SaveLeisure.

It was Walt Disney who famously once said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”

It’s a quote that is perhaps quite fitting for our Government at the minute as we fight to #SaveLeisure in these unprecedented times.

For months, we have been warning that facilities are at risk of closing permanently unless our politicians provide the vital investment required to help the industry recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

While it was encouraging to hear Parliament discuss the issues at length this week, we’re still left wondering when that injection of support will arrive.

All of our sports deserve better from the powers that be.

Without central Government support for pools, there is no doubt that we will continue to see more permanent closures and club failure.

Pools, gyms and leisure centres in general are associated with an “extremely low” prevalence of Covid-19, according to research.

So at a time when physical activity is needed more so than ever before, it’s critical that operators are given the help they need to open their doors again.

I understand the frustrations of our swimmers, divers, water polo players, artistic swimmers and those who rely on being in the water for physical and mental health reasons who can’t access their local pool.

All of us at Swim England share their concerns and appreciate they must feel they are being constantly overlooked.

We certainly have not forgotten about them though.

We’re obviously encouraged that more publicly-owned pools are open once again and a large proportion of our clubs are back in the water.

However, more than 200 public pools are still indefinitely closed so we are well aware that not everyone was able to start back at the same time.

Some facilities are not able to offer the amount of pool time to clubs they did previously… while others are forced to increase charges due to the overwhelming costs they face due to the lockdown measures.

Recovery is at different stages for all our clubs and we face a fine balancing act in supporting those in and out of the water.

Initiatives such as Level X have been created to give inspiration and hope to our clubs and members.

For those currently training, it offers the chance to put that hard work to the test at a time when competitions can’t take place.

For those not yet back in the water, it gives them an extra incentive to keep on fighting so they too can take part.

Our fight for investment in facilities has been ongoing for a number of years but has intensified since coronavirus struck.

I’m in daily dialogue with Sport England on the issues we’re facing and will continue the campaign to #SaveLeisure until we have a successful resolution.

Again, we would urge you to write to Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and your local MP to make them aware of our perilous position.

It’s time to step up the fight to ensure the long-term future of our facilities and our wonderful sports.

Jane M Nickerson

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