By Keira Daley
17 June 2010
The Amateur Swimming Association has expressed its disappointment that ‘Free Swimming’ – a government scheme to allow free swimming for the young and old – will stop shortly, but has acknowledged tough funding decisions have to be made.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has today announced Free Swimming for those aged 16 and under and over 60 will be cancelled as part of savings of around £73m.
David Sparkes, the chief executive of the ASA, said: “While we are disappointed to learn that Free Swimming will stop shortly we recognise that in the current economic climate the government needs to prioritise its spending and in that regard we understand the decision.”
Funding for free swims under the free swimming programme will end this summer.
Mr Sparkes added: “Free Swimming has brought many new people to swimming and has helped to drive up significantly attendances in pools and has made an impact to the activity target. We will now work with Local Authorities, Primary Care Trusts and pool operators to see how we retain these new customers and encourage more people to swim.
“We have learnt a lot from the Free Swimming initiative and we will now be seeking urgent meetings with both Sport England and the Dept of Health to see how we can build on the legacy from Free Swimming to continue to grow swimming and encourage more people to be more active.
“Swimming remains the number one participation sport and also remains the one activity people will consider as they step up their activity levels. Swimming can and will continue to work with government to ensure that there is a lasting legacy from this programme and we contribute significantly towards the target of 1,000,000 more people more active in sport as a legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The Sports and Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, said: “This is not a decision that gives me any pleasure. However, the research shows that the great majority of free swimmers were swimming already, and would have paid to swim anyway. With a crippling deficit to tackle and tough decisions to take, this has become a luxury we can no longer afford.”