Yesterday’s announcement that Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield is to remain closed indefinitely should send shock waves around the country and a clear message for all affected: the leisure industry needs urgent financial help.
As an aquatics community Ponds Forge has featured regularly in the development of Scottish athletes, from hosting British Championships, including Olympic and Paralympic Trials, International meets for swimming, diving, water polo and synchro, to providing volunteers and clubs opportunities to further hone their skills and come together as a team.
Ponds Forge won’t be the only victim. Pools in England were given the green light to open from 25 July, but many have been unable to do so because of lost revenues and the viability in opening with reduced capacity under the current restrictions. And with that in mind, a similar situation exists in Scotland, support is needed to secure the viability of pools over the longer term. Indeed, 38% of Scotland’s leisure Trusts will already be at risk by the end of the year and many leisure facilities will not be able to reopen.
Scottish Swimming are comfortable that the ability to open pools safely has been evidenced. Detailed guidance documents have been created showing it can be done in a safe and controlled way. Our 300+ pages of guidance documents covering professional sport, pool operators, club management, club training, open water, land training, people development and aquatic participation, submitted to the Scottish Government, Active Scotland and sportscotland, have been developed and shared with Club committees and pool providers, so when the green light is given to open, Clubs have the knowledge and awareness around the social distancing restrictions that will be in place and can adjust their training accordingly.
We have an indicative date of 14 September with a review of this expected at the First Minister’s next lockdown briefing on 20 August. The future of sport in Scotland, the health of a nation, including tackling both childhood and adult obesity, mental and physical health, are at risk if facilities do not open. We urge the Scottish Government to support the leisure industry with an emergency funding package that will see venues open at the earliest opportunity.