Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
40. Do we have one?
(Mr Sparkes) I have to say that the previous speakers
demonstrated this particularly. The local authority has to have
a strategy which says swimming is a popular sport. There are 11.9
million people who swim regularly in this country. That is an
awful lot of people. It is the most popular sport with young people.
It is number one with young ladies. It is number two with boys;
I will not give any prizes for guessing what is number one. At
the end of the day they want to swim and the local authority have
to provide a strategy which says, this is about how we are going
to do parent and children classes, this is how we are going to
deliver swimming for schools, this is how we are going to help
the clubs, the voluntary sector, this is how we are going to help
41. What about social exclusion as well? Could
you say something about that?
(Mr Sparkes) I believe swimming is ideally suited
to deal with issues of social exclusion because it is relatively
speakingrelativelya cheap sport. You do not need
an awful lot of equipment. Clubs are essentially voluntary units
and we believe that we are ideally suited to bringing the socially
excluded into pools. We know that where we operate in inner city
areas where there are high ethnic communities, they come in to
learn to swim to some degree. What we have not yet done is got
them to connect with the elite end of the sport and that is a
challenge on us, which we are working on.
42. How many local authorities do not have a
(Mr Sparkes) Quite a lot of local authorities do not
have a swimming strategy. One of the first local authorities which
developed a swimming strategy was Leeds. It would not be a surprise
that Leeds has produced a number of interesting and exciting swimmers,
Adrian Moorhouse is probably the most well-known example. Leeds
had a total strategy. What we are now trying to do is to encourage
more and more local authorities to have this strategy so that
they actually see how they are going to deliver swimming. It also
demonstrates what their facility requirements are. Do they need
more community pools? Do they need a 50-metre pool? How are they
going to meet the needs of their community?
43. On the Isle of Sheppey where I am, which
is an islandI know we are an island nationwe have
a pool which is just falling to pieces. It leaks, it has concrete
fatigue, the local authority cannot afford to rebuild it or replace
it so we shall not have a swimming pool for 35,000 people which
at the weekend doubles to 70,000 people because we have a lot
of caravan sites and the Eastenders come down to their caravans.
We will not have a swimming pool on the island. Should there not
just be a strategy that per head of population, like France does
with its tennis and athletics and its swimming, there should be
a certain type of pool which should be available for which the
state should pay.
(Mr Sparkes) I would agree with you that there should
be a swimming pool on the island because there should be local
community pools which people can access. They should be basic
25-metre pools to suit the needs of the community and to accommodate
swimming in schools through the education programme. That is why
we believe it should be a total strategy, not one which sits here
for the local authority and here for education, but they should
be locked together.
44. I thought the Government published a sports
strategy two years ago? Where was swimming in that?
(Mr Sparkes) Swimming was addressed within the sports
strategy but not specifically addressed because it was a general
45. Is there a strategy at all then?
(Mr Sparkes) If you read our facility strategy, which
we worked on with Sport England, that says develop a strategy
for swimming, see what the needs of your community are, from that
strategy will evolve your facility requirements. I believe that
is what we can have.
Chairman: This has been a very useful
Socratic dialogue but we do have six witnesses and we should like
to hear from all of them.
46. We have become experts here on the national
football and athletics stadium. I did hear a couple of years ago
that you were really looking for a national swimming centre, which
you do not really have, do you? Would that help?
(Mr Sparkes) The answer is that we are close, because
we are building a 50-metre pool at Loughborough University and
we are currently in negotiations with the university on that facility,
together with Sport England. We believe that will once and for
all address our needs. The sad truth is today that there is no
pool in the country, not one, where I can take the team to a training
camp over a prolonged period of time. We believe that Loughborough
University will meet that requirement. Obviously we are having
to negotiate that with the University to make sure that they can
afford to fit us into their programme. We believe we are very
47. Getting away from international sport, I
explained my lack of enthusiasm for swimming but I love to lie
on my back in the sunshine in a pool when I do not want to sit
and read any longer on holiday. There is nobody more enthusiastic
than I am to make sure that every child has the opportunity to
learn to swim so they can either swim 50 lengths a day or just
lie in a pool once a year on holiday. What are we not doing that
we need to do?
(Mr Juba) One of the reasons I am here today is because
I am carrying out research into swimmers right across the country
and that partly includes provision for school swimming. What school
swimming is showing us at the moment is that fewer children are
having the opportunity to go swimming, particularly those children
who cannot afford to go swimming. Moreover, one of the things
I am noticing on visiting the pools is the degree to which ethnic
groups are not present in these pools and do not have the opportunity
to swim. This is a real problem that swimming and swimming pool
operators are going to have to address in the future. I reckon
at this stage that probably less than two per cent of people who
are swimming are from ethnic groups around the country which is
a really very small percentage. There are many other issues at
the moment over swimming pools which are being driven by the new
commercially operated nature of pools in terms of privatisation,
for instance. It is extremely difficult. I believe children are
being marginalised in swimming pools because per square foot they
are not worth as much as adults. Therefore, there is a continued
movement towards adult lane swimming and fitness which is highly
desirable but what it does is decreases the opportunity for children
to swim across widths. There is more adult swimming during the
day. These are some of the issues which need to be considered,
particularly with school swimming. Many school pools are closing
because schools just cannot afford to keep them up, the local
management of schools has made it increasingly difficult for schools
to deliver on Key Stage 2. Underneath the kind of competitive
area of swimming there is a whole raft of difficulties for swimming
as an activity which will impact eventually on our international
performance. Another example is the increased number of drownings
which were seen between 1998 and 1999: 54 per cent in people under
the age of 14 or 15; I am not quite sure of the year. While we
stand up quite well compared with other EC countries, this is
obviously something which needs to be considered. We need to look
at ways in which we can give children the maximum opportunity
to swim, the opportunity to enter the sport of swimming to enjoy
it, but above all to be safe in it. These are all issues which
need to be addressed by swimming pool operators or perhaps people
who are delivering the contracts to swimming pool operators. With
the greater drive to commercialisation, it does not make sense
for a swimming pool operator to spend more time servicing a low
value customer which generally is a child.
(Mr Payne) May I respond to the question of what needs
to be done and address what is the single biggest issue about
swimming pool facilities. Mr Wyatt has commented on the provision
of the pool on the Isle of Sheppey. The single biggest issue we
have in swimming pool facilities is the modernisation of existing
pools. I think it was Mr Wyatt who mentioned the figure of £5
billion. The survey work we did in Sport England identified that
the cost of bringing the existing 1960s and 1970s stock of swimming
pools, which was the building boom for swimming pools, is around
£2 billion to modernise that stock of facilities. To put
that into context, Sport England, through the Lottery Fund, is
currently funding 121 swimming pool projects. It is the single
biggest sport in which we have invested the most money in terms
of the Lottery. We have invested £220 million and that has
created additional funding of £160 million. Collectively
with partners we have put in £380 million. That sits against
a demand and need to modernise that 1960s and 1970s stock at a
cost of £2 billion. The initiative Sport England took earlier
this year as part of the Treasury's capital modernisation fund
was to put in a bid to the capital modernisation fund for a specific
programme which is about modernisation of these community facilities.
Unfortunately we have heard in the last few days that that bid
has been rejected by Treasury. We feel we are doing quite a lot
with the resources we have within the Lottery to address this
issue. We consider that the scale of the problem and the scale
of the need is far greater and that is why we took the initiative
with Treasury through the capital modernisation programme. We
would suggest that is the single biggest issue in pool provision
we are facing as a country.
Chairman: So that is £220 million
for all those swimming pools as against £120 million for
Wembley Stadium which has not been built.
48. I note that the USA is one of the world's
leading swimming nations, primarily because their strength is
built around swimming teams based at universities. One of the
most impressive and thought out submissions we have receivedI
have certainly seen anywaywas that from Northampton who
are looking at putting together a new swimming centre around University
College in Northampton, so bringing together sports education,
competition at top level and exercise swimming. My point is that
seemed like very good value for £7.5 million. Would you believe
that is good value?
(Mr Winter) Yes, the scheme which is being talked
about at Northampton is good value for money at £7.5million.
It provides a 50-metre pool, which is of a flexible design. It
has movable floors, it has a bulkhead which can separate the 50-metre
pool into two 25-metre pools. By doing that you can actually begin
to accommodate the needs of the whole of the community. You can
have your elite swimmers using it as a 50-metre pool early in
the morning with four or five of those eight lanes, which Northampton
is, being used by elite swimmers and four or three of those lanes
in the early morning being used by the members of the public who
want to do lane swimming for fitness purposes. Later on in the
day you can then split that pool into two 25-metre pools and then
you can have community swimming taking place in one part of the
pool, in one 25-metre pool and in the other part of the pool you
can have elite swimming again training. What it will do is provide
elite swimmers with training at the times they require. If you
train in the morning at six o'clock, then you cannot be training
at nine or ten o'clock at night; you have to train at four or
five o'clock. It gives the elite swimmers the opportunity to train
twice a day, once in the 50-metre lanes, which is what we require,
and once in 25-metre lanes which is supplementary to training
in the 50-metre lanes. Yes it is a good scheme. What I have to
say is that we cannot necessarily compare ourselves completely
with the United States. Our swimming is based upon the club situation.
It is the small clubs around the universities and around those
50-metre pools which do the basic work with the swimmers and bring
them up to a certain standard before they can get to the elite.
This is what David said before.
49. So that as a template still works, because
I am told Northampton swimming club is very well organised.
(Mr Winter) Yes, it will work.
50. How many other Northamptons could there
(Mr Winter) There could be a lot of Northamptons.
What I would go back and say is that you have to remember that
Northampton University are looking at it as all the swimming in
Northamptonshire, not just the city of Northampton but the whole
of Northamptonshire. You have to be careful if you go down the
road of putting all your 50-metre pools into universities that
they do not become for university and student use only, but are
still there so that they can begin to cope with the needs of the
local swimming clubs and the general community needs.
51. A large element of the submission from Northampton
is that it is not going to be used for the university but actually
for the town and the hinterland around the town.
(Mr Winter) Yes, that is correct in Northampton and
it is a template for that sort of development.
52. I have been looking at the submission which
was made by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and there
are a couple of interesting passages. They say that prior to Sydney
swimming was classified as a priority one sport by UK Sport for
the purposes of funding. Following the disappointing results of
the 2000 Olympics, where Britain failed to win a medal, swimming
became a priority two sport and its level of funding was cut.
They went on to say that in fact the swimming events in Sydney
were the toughest that had happened anywhere with 15 world records
being broken. It was a pretty tough competition. It strikes me
as being a bit odd that if we are going to put any money into
a sport, when we do not do so well, we then put less money into
it. I should have thought it would be more logical to put more
money into it. Perhaps Mr Carpenter would like to comment on that.
(Mr Carpenter) It is a question of the funding we
have available. UK Sport looked at the priorities relating to
both the Olympic medals which were won in Sydney and the likelihood
of medal success in the future. What was decided was that there
would be four level one sports, another four at level two. Swimming
was originally classified at level one, but because of the results
in Sydney and the expectation of future
53. You have given up on them.
(Mr Carpenter) No, not at all, far from it; in fact
completely the opposite. Swimming against the other sports and
against the current medal potential, was assessed to be a level
two sport. That said, there is still very, very significant investment
going into swimming, in fact if anything the performance programmes
have been enhanced since Sydney with the introduction of the world
class potential and the world class start programmes which we
are funding quite significantly. Whereas prior to Sydney there
was probably something of the order of £1.5 million going
into the performance programme, the figure now is up near the
£3.5 to £4 million mark if you take the other programmes
which have come on stream into account. We are far from dismissing
swimming as being one of the priorities. Swimming is one of the
fundamentals of the Olympic Games in particular and we shall continue
and indeed UK Sport will continue to support them heavily.
54. I am still not quite sure. Are you saying
that the fact they have become a level two funded sport has nothing
to do with the results at the Olympics?
(Mr Carpenter) No, it does have a bearing in terms
of the results from Sydney, but also in the immediate post-Olympic
period after Sydney we and UK Sport carried out a very, very detailed
survey of prospects for the future and indeed looking at the performances
and the positions where the particular programmes were across
each sport, a very, very detailed monitoring and evaluation study.
The decisions which were reached were based on medal prospects
for the immediate future and indeed medal prospects for the long-term
future. Our feeling was with UK Sport that there were some other
sports such as rowing and sailing for example which were probably
likely to be medal heavier in the immediate future; swimming perhaps
was one which was going to come through in the longer term. There
is no reduction in commitment.
55. Is there a correlation between the amount
of money invested and the amountto use your English, which
is rather niceof "medaling" which can come about?
(Mr Carpenter) There is a correlation in terms of
funding, but it has to be backed by the right performance programmes,
the right performance director, the right coaches, the right support
services in terms of pools and indeed backed by the athletes themselves.
56. Are you saying if you put more money in
they would not know what to do with it?
(Mr Carpenter) No; not necessarily. There is no question
that if further funding were made available, swimming would be
able to make good use of it. We have to make decisions based on
the priorities and the likelihood of individual sports winning
medals. That is the decision-making process. We do not have a
never ending trough of funding, as you are well aware, in terms
of the Lottery money coming down, both on the capital and revenue
side, so we had to look at the priorities and we are funding swimming
at a level which we feel is sufficient for them to continue development.
57. Mr Payne said that he thought the biggest
need is to refurbish existing facilities and I suspect he is right.
Also in this DCMS report it says that the Government believes
it is for local authorities to ensure that spatial development
planswhatever that meansand local sports development
policies reflect the importance of swimming and set aside sufficient
investment to improve or if necessary replace existing facilities
which was the point Mr Payne was making. Do you think local authorities
have the money to do this?
(Mr Payne) I would suggest that they very much have
the money to do the strategies. Only around 30 per cent of local
authorities in England have produced sport and recreation strategies,
probably an even smaller number have produced swimming strategies.
I cannot consider that there is insufficient funding to do the
strategies to identify the need which must be the first step.
I would agree that there is insufficient funding to look at the
new provision requirements arising from that strategy and also
to look at modernising the community aspect angles of local pools
being very much a community resource. There is insufficient funding.
What I would say is that in terms of the Lottery investment, swimming
has been the sport which has benefited most in terms of total
58. I am amused by some of your titles. I like
the More Places Directorate and the More Medals Directorate. These
are lovely titles; very Orwellian. It seems to me that swimming
is a sport where there are more conflicts between the different
kinds of swimming people engage in than in any other sport available,
whether it is leisure swimming because people want to go down
flumes, or it is lane swimming where you want to kill any child
who gets anywhere near you or swimming in front of you and where
one day you are going to have to develop a code of conduct for
swimming in lanes.
(Mr Riley) We have one.
Mr Bryant: Excellent. Aquaslides, the
problems ethnic minorities have in terms of making sure that the
Hasidic Jewish community can have access to swimming pools and
so on, all of these things.
Chairman: Particularly ethnic minority
59. Indeed. We have not mentioned water polo
and diving yet either. How does one resolve all those conflicts
in swimming today?
(Mr Riley) Pool managers try to do that by programming.
We programme our pools more today than we ever have in the past.
By programming, we look at what the needs are, we look at trying
to meet those needs and programme the pool in terms of time slots
to accommodate the needs. It is always going to be a compromise.
The sad fact is that we do not have sufficient water space, we
have insufficient pools. I take Mr Wyatt's point earlier on: we
ought to have invested a lot more money in the infrastructure
of pools in this country a long time ago. If we had more pools,
then all those tensions you are talking about would not be present.