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Swim clubs ‘left in dark’ about when they will get back into pool

Club still not given a date for re-opening

26 June, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

The pool at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre

ONE of the borough’s most successful sports clubs could face “serious downsizing” after being left stranded by the government’s latest lockdown-lifting measures.

Camden Swiss Cottage Swimming Club has over 2,000 members attached to their Learn to Swim programme, and a further 500 that regularly compete, and win medals.

But organisers say they feel like they “have been left in the dark” following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday that pubs, restaurants and hairdressers can reopen on July 4, but swimming pools and gyms must still remain closed.

“It came as a massive shock,” said Camden Swiss Cottage chairman AJ McEver. “We had met with GLL [operators of Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre] and everything was in place to get back up and running. We were all working on the impression that we could open on July 4. Even Swim England, the sport’s governing body, had been working with the government, and released detailed documents on how we could safely get back.”

“And then, to everyone’s surprise, we’re told that we’re not allowed to reopen, without any explanation or at least a new date that we could work for. It defies logic- it’s like we’ve just been forgotten.”

He added: “What message does that send to our kids, that pubs can open but you can’t go for a swim?” When swimming pools are finally allowed to reopen Camden Swiss Cottage is still preparing for a stark “new normal”.

The club normally occupies around 100 hours in the pool each week, but under social distancing guidelines. “Phase One” will see that reduced to just 10 hours – meaning that their top squads could get as little as one hour of pool time training every week.

Mr McEver, who has been chair for just over three years, added that is was the members who are saving the club by continuing to pay their fees even though the pool is shut.”

Warning that he fully expects a number of swimming clubs across the country to close down, he said: “We’re not a business, we’re a social drive for the Camden community. Without our members the club simply ceases to exist. “It went better than expected, with about a third agreeing to pay the full fees, and about half taking a slight discount. “But as time goes on more people are cancelling. The uncertainty is really hurting us.”

“If our finances continue to take a big hit we might have to reduce the number of members we serve. But we’re a big enough club to survive this. There are a lot of clubs out there that won’t.”


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