The future of all aquatic sports is in danger according to a new report from Swim England.
Their ‘Decade of Decline’ report, which was released on Tuesday, warned an investment of £1billion is needed to avoid millions being deprived of access to their favourite sports.
For swimming and diving clubs in south west London, where the number of water sports facilities available has already declined throughout the pandemic, this news has come as another devastating blow.
Teddington Swimming Club (TSC) chairman Nick Poaros claims the report could massively impact water-based sports in the south west London area.
“The two council facilities [used by TSC] are quite tired and old, and could be in the category of pools likely to close by 2030 without adequate investment,” Poaros said.
“At the moment we struggle to deliver a programme that both meets the competitive objectives of our swimmers and provides training schedules that do not negatively impact our young peoples’ education.
“It would be almost impossible to provide a viable programme if any more pools were to go out of service.”
The report, which was published on National Fitness Day, said more than 200 pools have closed since the Covid-19 outbreak, nearly a third of which were public pools.
One pool that has fallen victim is at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre, where the club’s competitive divers are travelling as far as Southend to complete their training after their home facilities were closed almost six months ago.
“Since they emptied the diving pool, we have had no information as to when it is going to be refilled,” says Gill Snode, who runs the centre’s diving programme.
“We’ve had a highly successful diving club running for the last 30 years producing many international and Olympic divers – two of our junior divers competed in the Tokyo Olympics this year.
“Before the closure we had 500 children in the programme but we’ve lost roughly 70% of our regular divers – most are simply waiting for the pool to reopen.”
Whilst the worries from top-level athletes are clear, the closures – alongside the many predicted to follow – will raise concerns about the accessibility of water sports for future generations.
“Pool time is scarce in our area already,” added Poaros. “We have growing waiting lists of prospective swimmers but not enough pool space to accommodate them.
“Swimming is a life skill. It is so important, especially in a community with the Thames running through it.
“The government and the council should be investing in swimming by updating or rebuilding our local pool facilities.”