Swim England has praised the patience and support of the aquatics community after swimming pools were finally given the green light to start reopening. CEO Jane Nickerson has also vowed that the national governing body will now do everything in its power to support facilities that could be mothballed due to financial hardship.
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport announced that outdoor pools will be allowed to reopen from Saturday 11 July, with indoor pools to begin reopening from Saturday 25 July, the first time since 20 March. The announcement was made 16 days after Swim England launched its #OpenOurPools campaign, which was backed by tens of thousands across the country. Nearly 55,000 signed the petition calling on the Government to reconsider its decision not to open pools alongside hotels, restaurants, pubs and cinemas on 4 July. Thousands more posted vocal messages on social media and the campaign received support from a significant number of Olympians and Paralympians.
Commenting on the announcement, Jane Nickerson said: “This is a victory for the people who have been desperate to get back into the water for several months. Their frustration has been understandable but they have shown incredible patience and resolve. We celebrate alongside them the fact they can soon start enjoying the activities they love once again. When we needed their support, they backed us in their tens of thousands – and we can’t thank them enought for that. We know that pools need time to get their facilities up and running again after being closed for so long. Many outdoor pools will not be ready to open from this weekend and some indoor pools may not be ready to open on 25 July, so we’d ask swimmers to remain patient a little while longer.”
Integral and important part of every community
Jane also renewed the battle for the Government to financially help pools that are at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, by ensuring there is ring-fenced funding for swimming pools and leisure facilities. She said: “Now we know when pools can start to reopen, our focus turns to fighting for those facilities that are facing an uncertain future due to financial difficulties caused by the lockdown to curb this awful pandemic. Aquatic activity has been proven to improve people’s physical and mental health, helping save the health and social care system more than £357 million a year. We realise the public purse is under considerable pressure but spending money now to help keep pools open rather than letting them close down forever will help save millions in the long-term. Even before this outbreak, we were forecasting a shortage of facilities over the next 10-20 years and this problem will only be exacerbated by the loss of pools as a result of Covid-19. These pools are an integral and important part of every community and we’ll do everything we can to help ensure that remains the case.”