It has been over six months since COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced in Scotland, and looking at the current news it is difficult to foresee that we will be free of such restrictions anytime soon.
However, despite indoor sport being one of the last group of sports to be allowed to return, at the time of writing, 65% of Clubs have now enjoyed getting back to the water. This is testament to the commitment and willingness of our members to adopt the guidelines, take on new COVID-19 Officer roles and follow all the individual protocols of the pools to the letter, ultimately promoting and showcasing safe sport and for this we thank each and every one of you.
Current situation for our sport
Phase 3 brought the long awaited date for returning to the water of 14th September which was then brought forward to the 31st August. We knew from the information the pool providers were sharing that the return would be phased with not all pools opening at once and many with reduced opening hours and reduced capacity which meant working together was essential if we were to get as many members back to the water as possible. By doing this, we have managed to get a decent percentage of clubs back as of the end of September, a number which is expected to rise to 73% by the end of October. This has been achieved against the back drop of only 38% of pools opening in the first instance.
We do expect to see more pools opening as and when it is financially viable for them to do so but, most now have to have a sound business case to ensure sustainability in the longer term. School pools are slightly different and we don’t expect to see school pools opening until well into October, possibly later, with mainstream education being the current priority for the Scottish Government. With school pools being where a number of clubs and private swim schools operate from, we have emphasized to sportscotland the importance of getting these pools operating as soon as possible.
We also appreciate that current restrictions are making it difficult for a full return to Water Polo and Synchronised Swimming, both of which are considered contact sports. Please know that we continue to work closely with sportscotland and The Scottish Government, sharing details that a safe return to the water is possible, especially with all clubs adhering to the current guidelines.
Through working together things are moving in the right direction; however, we must help ensure that the long term viability of pool spaces is protected. Pre-COVID, Leisure Trusts were facing a backdrop of public funding decline with significant savings having to be made across services. The impact of the pandemic has exasperated this and a report by Community Leisure Scotland in July stated that in order to remain solvent Trusts have been using all levers available to them, including exhausting their reserves. The anticipated recovery period after re-opening is expected to be 12 to 18 months, or longer. In response the sector has worked together to make its case with a letter being sent by the Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing to the UK Government seeking urgent discussions for a package of financial support.
Community planning is likely to feature more prominently and we need your help to ensure swimming and aquatics is high up the priority list in your local communities. In other words, the current stock of pools need to stay open.
Although there are challenges ahead, we continue to work towards a positive future and we are making plans accordingly. Discussions are ongoing at Swim Committee around the prospect of holding an event of sorts in December, at the time when we’d normally have our National Short Course Swimming Championships, and we will keep you updated on this as and when information is available. In the meantime we have published supporting information around Virtual Meets, which should be read in conjunction with Scottish Swimming’s “Back to the Water - Return to Competition Overview”, available from the COVID-19 Hub on the website.
You may have also seen that a number of our performance swimmers have been selected onto teams for the upcoming International Swimming League (ISL). With the Olympics postponed until next year, this is an important opportunity for the athletes involved to race.
We will need to continue to work together with clubs sharing resources, pool time, coaches, volunteers, and we appreciate that many of you are already doing this. There is no doubt things are and will continue to be different, but different can be better, with an opportunity to reset things should we feel the need to do so. If we are to achieve this we as a governing body need to be flexible and adaptable to change and we as a community need to continue to work together because alone we can do a little but together we can do so much.