Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Southern Counties Amateur Swimming Association


  1.1  The generic term of "swimming" also covers the sports of swimming for the disabled, diving, water polo, synchronised swimming, and open water swimming.

  1.2  The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) is the Governing Body for the sport of swimming in England, and together with Scotland and Wales form the Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain. English swimming has a total membership of c200,000 and for effective government and administration, it is divided into five Districts.


  2.1  The Southern Counties Amateur Swimming Association covers eight County Associations as follows: Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands) and the old administrative county of Middlesex. The Southern Counties is the largest ASA District with a total of 540 clubs and other "Affiliated Association" representing 62,224 individual members. A breakdown of the comparative ASA membership District by District is as follows:

  2.2  The 540 clubs represent every aspect of swimming and within that membership there are a number of clubs dedicated to swimming for the disabled, a club specifically for the Jewish Community, a club specifically for the Lesbian and Gay Community and a number of schools from both private and public sector and other youth organisations such as the Scouts and Guides. There are no clubs specifically for ethnic minorities but it is known that all clubs adhere to the ASA Equity Policy and welcome and encourage members from that sector of the community.


  3.1  The structure of the clubs is a natural pyramid, the majority concentrating on swimming teaching with the more promising athletes being "fed" into the clubs with development programmes through to the elite. In most major conurbations there are large clubs with sophisticated structures which develop children from learning to swim through to international selection. Many such clubs also have special training for swimmers with disabilities which compliments the clubs which exist specifically for that purpose.

  3.2  Many of the clubs in the District have produced, and continue to produce, athletes who are performing with distinction on the world stage but this is entirely due to an army of willing volunteers who manage, staff and run the clubs. Most of the club coaches receive only nominal recompense for their work and many of the athletes have to travel long distances to find coaching and water time to train, often at unsocial hours; at the inevitable expense to the parents and disruption to ordinary family life.

  3.3  This structure allows for the development of athletes in other disciplines such as water polo, synchronised swimming, open water and diving.


  4.1  The majority of clubs use pools owned by the local authority, many of which were built in the 60s and 70s and have a limited life. Most of these are pools the lengths of the water being 33 yards or metres with some of 25 metres. There is no evidence to suggest that those facilities do not adequately meet the needs of the "learn to swim", development programmes and the local community; but there is a woeful lack of facilities for the athlete who aspires to join the elite.

  4.2  In all sports the ultimate aspiration for any athlete is to be selected for their country at the Olympic Games, the World the Commonwealth Games or European Championships. In swimming the recognised competition distance is 50 metres and as a consequence all National and District Championships, and some County Championships, are organised over the 50 metre length of water. It is perhaps interesting to note that the District Swimming Championships are run over four week-ends (two of which are Bank Holiday week-ends) with entries normally in excess of 8,000.

  4.3  The current minimum international standard competition swimming facility is a 50 metre pool with 10 lanes with providing adequate accommodation for spectators and competitors and car parking.

  4.4  The Southern Counties currently has three 50 metre swimming pools:

4.4.1  Gurnell Pool, Ealing

  A six lane 50 metre pool configured in a "L" shape. Because of the six lanes and shape of the pool it is useless except as a training venue and for low level competitions.

4.4.2  National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace

  An eight lane 50 metre pool owned by the London Borough of Bromley and leased to Sport England. It is now almost 40 years old and universally accepted as in need of major refurbishment. Regardless of age, the design is now out of date having only eight lanes. There is no moveable boom and no moveable floor thereby denying the flexibility which allows maximum usage by the community and the elite swimmer. Discussions have been taking place between Bromley Council and Sport England for several years but there appears to be no end to resolving the various issues that exist between the parties.

4.4.3  British Army Garrison Pool, Aldershot

  An eight lane 50 metre pool owned and run by the Army Garrison. It has little seating capacity and the Army take first option on usage and because of the limited seating cannot be regarded as a competition venue even for a District event.

  4.5  There are no other 50 metre competition pools in the Southern Counties, the next nearest being Coventry which is a minimum sized eight lane 50 metre pool and only slightly better in condition than Crystal Palace.

  4.6  That situation has to be compared with swimming facilities in the North. Sheffield, the most up to date facility in the country with the full range of facilities and meeting international standards. Leeds, 35 miles away also with an outdated 50 metre pool and diving facilities shortly to be replaced with a modern facility. Manchester, 40 miles away from both Sheffield and Leeds with a new facility built for the Commonwealth Games 2002, Stockport and the now elderly pool in Wigan, all three within the old Manchester Metropolitan area. In addition, Liverpool is also to have a 50 metre pool creating six pools within a small geographical area. In Scotland there is the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh and 46 miles away the new facility in Glasgow and a recently refurbished 50 metre pool at East Kilbride, 10 miles from Glasgow.

  4.7  In summary, the capital city has no venue which comes even near being called a National Venue and none which are even in the planning stage. As a result, swimmers who have reached national standard and above have to travel excessive distances to compete. Because of the lack of 50 metre training facilities those swimmers in the largest ASA District start at a disadvantage to their peers who train regularly in 50 metre pools.

  4.8  Because of the constraints on the site, the fact that the Sports Hall (which includes the swimming pool) has been "listed", and lack of funding either from Bromley Council or Sport England; even if Crystal Palace was refurbished it could only be regarded as a regional training and competition venue. To bring the venue up to international standard would require the current facility to be demolished and completely rebuilt.


  5.1  The need to cater for the other disciplines in the ASA is no less than that of 50 metre swimming pools. Diving, water polo and synchronised swimming all need deep water in which to train. In diving the only 10 metre platforms are located at Crystal Palace and Southampton and neither is of international standard and could not therefore host a senior international event. In synchronised swimming and water polo there is no facility in the entire District which meet international specifications. In spite of that, all three disciplines have produced and continue to produce athletes of international standard.


  6.1  Successive Ministers of Sport, endorsed by the Prime Minister of the current administration, have publicly stated that it is the policy of HM Government to promote major international events in the UK with the ultimate objective being to stage the Olympic Games. However, both the International Olympic Committee and the Federation Internationale De Natation (the World Governing body for swimming) have indicated that they will not consider a bid for a World class event unless it is located in the Capital City. In the latter case, swimming has lost the Swimming World Cup, an event previously staged in Sheffield, and the World Diving Grand Prix simply because they cannot be staged in London through lack of facilities.

  6.2  The lack of 50 metre international standard pools in London needs to be compared against other European Major Cities:

Barcelona  6
Rome  4
Amsterdam  3
Vienna  2
Stockholm  2

  6.3  In order to stage even a European Championships two 50 metre pools would be required. A training pool for warm up and swim down, and a competition pool with spectator facilities for up to 5,000 people. In addition, a deep water pool with full international diving staging to accommodate diving and synchronised swimming. Those requirements would increase for the purpose of an Olympic bid to a minimum of four 50 metre pools in reasonable close proximity.

  6.4  It might be argued that the pressure for 50 metre facilities is not immediate and no purpose would be served by providing them now. That argument would be fallacious for the following reasons:

  6.4.1  The need for 50 metre pools and deep water facilities is now and the Southern Counties in general and London in particular is seriously disadvantaged both for training and competition in comparison to the rest of the country.

  6.4.2  The lead time for the provision of such facilities is such that any improvements made to Crystal Palace would only be an interim measure. In any event, Crystal Palace can only ever be regarded as a regional centre for training and competition and not a major national/international venue.


  7.1  The Southern Counties ASA supports the ASA published strategy that the minimum requirement for London is four 50 metre eight lane pools. One of which would also provide a deep water pool of sufficient size and depth to accommodate diving, water polo and synchronised swimming with seating capacity for up to 5,000 thus able to accommodate National and International events and act as the anchor pool for an Olympic bid.

  7.2  The Southern Counties recognises that in London the provision of leisure facilities, and in particular swimming pools, calls for a large capital outlay and ongoing revenue implications and these costs have to compete with all the problems of housing, education, social services and other important local provisions. Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow have the same problems as London and have found that the creation of swimming pools, with all the other leisure facilities which form part of such a complex, adds to the fabric of that society and can do much to alleviate the problems of the under privileged.


  The Southern Counties Amateur Swimming Association is the largest District in the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) with 540 clubs and 62,224 members representing 32 per cent of the total ASA membership. It covers the Counties from Hertfordshire in the North down to Hampshire in the South, including London.

  The clubs cover all aspects of swimming including diving, water polo, synchronised swimming, open water and swimming for the disabled. The club base covers all aspects of society and all age ranges from "cradle to the grave".

  The teaching of swimming is adequately served by pools which are mainly owned by local authorities and schools but many have reached the time when they will need refurbishment or replaced.

  The international standard length for swimming races is 50 metre. There are only three 50 metre pools in the District and none are of international standard.

  There are no pools in the District of international standard for diving, water polo and synchronised swimming.

  In the North of the country and within a 50 mile radius there are four pools of international standard and a further one to be built (Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Wigan and Liverpool).

  There is no swimming spectator venue in the Capital City and none planned to be built. This compares unfavourably with other major cities in Europe.

  HM Government stated policy is to attract major sporting events to the UK.

  The IOC and the World Governing Body for Swimming have both said that they will only consider bids for major events if they are located in London. The Facility Strategy for London is for four 50 metre pools in London with one being a major spectator venue.

  Swimmers of National standard and above are at a disadvantage without the ability to train in 50 metre pools and suffer a financial penalty by having to travel excessive distances in order to compete.

20 November 2001

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