Priced out of sport

A SWIMMING club that has been running for more than 30 years is facing closure because it can no longer meet its costs. St Ives Swimming Club, founded in 1973, has lost money for two years running and, despite slashing sessions, is threatened with closure

A SWIMMING club that has been running for more than 30 years is facing closure because it can no longer meet its costs.

St Ives Swimming Club, founded in 1973, has lost money for two years running and, despite slashing sessions, is threatened with closure.

The club is home to two of the county's most successful swimmers - Callum French from Peterborough and Sophie Sweet, of St Ives. Both have won national medals but could be left without a club unless extra funding can be secured.

Club chairman Steve Johnson said: "We have been faced with increased charges for pool hire year-on-year and, although we have increased membership fees, we cannot justify passing any more cost to members.


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"Parents with two or three children who swim at the club are already paying out more than £100 per month and increasing that amount any further would be unfair."

The club has 150 members who compete in competitive events, ranging in age from eight to 18. Sessions for four to nine-year-old learners, as well as senior sessions, are also held by the club's coaches at the St Ivo Leisure Centre in St Ives, but costs are spiralling.

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St Ives Swimming Club does receive funding from Living Sport for a community sports coach but otherwise operates on fees paid by members' parents alone.

Head coach Andy Hunter has been involved with the club for six years. He said: "It is a ludicrous situation. The facilities at the St Ivo Centre are not good enough for us to host club events yet we pay more and more to use it.

"We have two swimmers at the club who have great potential and we could very easily be seeing in the 2012 Olympics but there is so little support from authorities.

"My home town in Northumberland has a six-lane pool for 7,500 people. This is a relatively wealthy area but the nearest 50m pool is at Norwich or Coventry."

Sophie Sweet, 14, is one of the club's most successful swimmers. Her grandfather Chris told The Hunts Post how important the club is to her. He said: "Sophie has built a fantastic relationship with the coaches and doesn't want to leave but she may have no choice. I have offered to fund pool hire for a training session myself but it is sad to see kids being priced out of sport."

Club treasurer Caroline Watson attended the club when she was a young swimmer and now takes her son and daughter to swim. She said: "The club is an important part of the community and has been well-used over the years. It would be a terrible shame if it closed."

Huntingdonshire District Council was unavailable for comment as The Hunts Post went to press.

Mr Johnson added: "Unless we can secure additional funding, either through sponsorship or elsewhere, there is a possibility we will have to close, and that would be a disaster."

Anyone interested in sponsoring the club should contact Steve Johnson on 01480 830830.

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