Swim England

A nation swimming

I hope the Government is listening and we will see action sooner rather than later

Tracey Crouch is the MP for Chatham and Aylesford and a former Minister of Sport, who is calling on the Government to give vital support to sports, facilities and clubs during the coronavirus pandemic.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to write for Swim England following my recent question in Parliament talking about a cause close to my heart – the importance of sport and physical activity and the need for the Government support for our sports and clubs right across the country following the impact of Covid-19.

From my time as the Minister for Sport, I remember clearly how swimming is consistently proven to be one of the most popular activities, enjoyed by millions of us each year.

I’m lucky to have the fantastic Larkfield Swimming Club in my constituency, with other local clubs such as Black Lion SC and Maidstone SC also providing opportunities for people to test themselves in the water.

I know how difficult it was for members in my constituency to be out of the water and away from the sports they loved so much during the lockdown, and I would commend Swim England on their successful #OpenOurPools campaign to get pools back open.

That has helped thousands of swimmers, divers, water polo players and artistic swimmers return to the water, but I appreciate that it’s far from the end of the story.

The Government’s decision to allow swimming pools to reopen was not, and could never be, some magic bullet to snap every pool back to the pre-covid situation.

From my discussions with Swim England, and from examples from across the country, it is clear that many pools remain shut, some clubs are facing price increases for pool hire which threaten their future and other pools may be forced to close their doors again for good without further support.

The Government has taken some very welcome steps which I commend it for.

For instance, making more than £200 million of funding available through Sport England to support grassroots sport through the pandemic, and the furlough scheme which was a lifeline for many pool operators and others across the sector.

But I completely accept that there is much more to be done.

Keep the pressure up

That was the reason for me seeking the urgent question in Parliament so that there was an opportunity for MPs from all parties and all parts of the country to raise their concerns with the Minister and keep the pressure up for the support that the sporting sector, and it’s many wonderful clubs, so desperately need.

Being part of a sports club, whether it’s water polo or football, artistic swimming or rugby league, brings so many benefits.

As well as the well-documented physical and mental benefits of taking part in sport or physical activity, there is something about the camaraderie and social aspect of being part of a club that adds an extra layer of benefit, helping bind our communities together in a way that is more important than ever at the moment.

It’s therefore vital we support our sports and clubs and help them get through these difficult times to ensure they are still there for the next generation to continue to enjoy.

Aquatic activity is still as popular as ever and I’m delighted to see that participation levels are higher amongst girls – something that is not the case across a wide range of sports – and that women and girls reported that swimming has more than doubled their self-confidence.

Finally, I remember reading in Swim England’s Value of Swimming report that swimmers report feeling 12 years younger as a result of swimming – surely that is enough to persuade all of us to dust off our swimming caps and goggles and get back in the water?

I am hopeful that the Government is listening to the concerns raised by organisations like Swim England and others from across the sporting community and that we will see some action taken sooner rather than later.

I will certainly be continuing to raise the issue in Parliament on behalf of the millions of people who are passionate about their sports.