The chart above shows the steep rise in swimming popularity as a result of the government’s free swimming program as reflected in swimming pool attendances in Bradford.
Similar statistics countrywide show a degree of success in getting firstly those over 60 and later those under 16 active and into the water.
Despite the steep increase in attendance figures peaking in 2009-10, the economic slump led to austerity measures and funding cuts. The goal of free swimming for all by the time of the Olympics in 2012 disappeared down the plughole as funding cuts saw an end to free swimming sessions and led to pool closures, timetable adjustments, reduced opening hours and efficiency savings. The statistics show swimming attendance figures have dropped well below those achieved prior to the government’s intervention, so why the steep drop in attendance figures?
Former Sports Minister and Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab) is reported in the Telegraph and Argus as saying: “A lot of this drop is down to the Government cancelling the free swimming programme and pools being closed in Bradford… I called on the Council not to close any pools until they built some. A review done last year on sports facilities highlighted the need for new swimming pools. These are disappointing figures and swimming is something families can do together.”
Further budget cuts paint a bleak picture for the future of British swimming. Although children are being encouraged to learn how to swim, swimming is becoming an extravagance many families cannot afford. Despite the concessions available it is difficult for parents to justify the expense of family swimming, and especially so when the activity was formally free.
Wild swimming is available for free throughout the country and continues to grow in popularity.
Data released to the Telegraph & Argus under Freedom of Information rules shows a drop over the last five years – from 1,172,119 visitors in 2007-08 and a high of 1,268,092 in 2009-10 at the height of the programme offering free swimming for children and pensioners, to a low of 1,113,981 in 2011-12. More…