Sink Or Swim

Sport England revealed that 144,200 fewer people have been swimming once a week for at least 30 minutes in the last six months. Pic: Georgie Kerr

Three years after the London 2012 Games promised to ‘inspire a generation’, grassroots sports participation has taken a nose dive.

While swimming remains a popular sport with 2.5million people taking to the pool each week, Sport England revealed that 144,200 fewer people have been swimming once a week for at least 30 minutes in the last six months.

The long term trend is also very concerning, with 729,000 people stopping swimming in the last decade.

“These are really disappointing results. This is especially the case for swimming, where a serious, long-term decline needs to be reversed,” says Sport England’s chief executive, Jennie Price.

“Whilst we’ve seen the number of people playing sport increase by 1.4 million since we won the right to host the London 2012 Games, these results highlight that our current investment model has delivered all the growth available in the traditional markets for sport.”

It has been suggested that insufficient access to swimming pool facilities is a contributing factor in the decline of swimming participation. Official statistics from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) confirm that there are 5,055 public swimming pools in England as of June 2015, that’s 61 fewer pools than in 2013.

“The continued pressure on local authority budgets has meant that the public sector sports facilities in particular have borne the brunt of diminishing investment as a consequence of their nonstatutory status,” says Steve Franks, managing director of Water Babies.

“Unfortunately, it is predicted that investment in new publically funded sport and leisure facilities, including swimming pools, will continue to decline overall.”

Kayle Burgham, STA’s technical manager for aquatics adds: “There are simply not enough pools that are easily accessible to people and lots are closing; this is especially concerning when you consider that swimming is the only activity that can save a person’s life.

“However, we firmly believe that there is more that can be done to utilise the existing pool stock in the UK so that they can fulfil their potential and secure their future.”

Kayle continues: “Pools are an expensive overhead and it’s easy to write them off as being financially unviable, especially in the current economic climate. What we would like is for pool operators to embrace change. By being creative, a well-run pool programme that maximizes pool space can actually create income for an operator.”

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