CEO comment on Return to Water – June 2020

Swim Wales is incredibly busy at the moment developing plans for a return to water for our 9 different users groups, and in consultation with 38 facility owners. As we all know, Welsh government are easing restrictions very slowly, and while we are clearly not the first sport back we know we are ‘in the queue’ and our plans for a safe return to water for a small group of our Welsh National Elite Squad swimmers has been submitted to Welsh Government for consideration.

Welsh Government established several sports groups some weeks ago, and members of our team have been contributing to these as well as other key GB/UK groups. We have been drawing out the knowledge required to help our partners prevail in the coming weeks and months.

Elite swimming will be the first area where we return to water. This is the safest and most practical way for US to make a return. Our colleagues at British Swimming have now had 4 weeks of training under their belt across 2 national centres in England and this will be an extremely useful yardstick for us in Wales. We have a huge opportunity to learn in detail about how safe environments for athletes can work, how we implement virus testing, the necessary routine hygiene and sanitation practices, training logistics, venue management and ultimately be as informed as we possibly can be so that guidance can be made available for all other users involved including parents, volunteers and staff.

Community and club swimming in Wales is a very important component part of the pathway, and it is closely linked to the performance system through our 12 performance clubs in Wales. Some people may assume that when conditions are right for the elite groups to return this would also allow the resumption of the other – but we must take great care to treat these two elements separately. We will continue to work with the other home nations at a domestic level, but everyone needs to be aware that the timeline for the return of community aquatics will run a different course.

We all desperately want the current health crisis to be over, and for all aquatic activity to return throughout the country. However, patience is required by us all and to this point I fully support the message from Brian Davies the Sport Wales interim chief executive last week who said that ‘it is better not to rush and get it right’ and that we must be ‘patient and unified’ at this time.

This week, we have a third scheduled Club Chair COVID-19 consultation session, and I will use this opportunity to explain to Club Chairs the reason why community and club swimming and other aquatic activities like Water polo, Diving and Artistic swimming remain suspended until further notice.

We will continue to encourage our member clubs and participants to stay active, to use the dry land training resources that have been made available to them to prepare locally, following the government guidance at all times. The advice we give to members, clubs and participants across Wales will of course change in line with Welsh Government guidelines and we will continue to maintain strong links with them as we have done since early March.

I appreciate that things are moving slowly, but it is that way for the right reasons.

Please help by keeping each other safe, remaining patient and preparing well.

Thank you

Fergus Feeney

CEO, Swim Wales

17th June 2020

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