The chief executive of Swim England has clarified why clubs and swim schools have only been advised to cancel activities during the coronavirus outbreak rather than being told to stop.
Jane Nickerson said Swim England’s affiliated clubs could find themselves at risk of not being correctly insured if the national governing body had ordered them to stop activities and they had then continued.
However, if clubs were advised of the latest guidance and then carried out appropriate risk assessments on whether it was still safe to take part in aquatic activities, they would still be covered.
Jane said: “We understand all the concerns around the guidance we have issued so far and that some of you would prefer that we send out definitive instructions about what you should do within your club environment.
“There are important reasons why we are issuing guidance, albeit strong guidance, and are not mandating clubs to stop activities, such as training, social get-togethers, face-to-face meetings, land-work and anything else you do within your club environment.
“The most important reason is due to insurance.
“All clubs benefit from high-quality insurance as part of the Swim England membership package.
“Within any insurance policy, including ours, there is a reasonable precautions condition which means that the liability indemnity may be impacted if a club deliberately avoids instruction from the governing body or is found to be acting recklessly.
Health and wellbeing primary importance
“This means that if we mandate clubs to stop activities and they continue to operate, they may find themselves in a position whereby their liability indemnity is not in place.
“However, if we issue guidance, based on the best advice we can obtain, clubs can then carry out their own risk assessment to determine if they can continue to safely deliver activities in certain situations for certain swimmers.
“All clubs should record their decisions, whether they are proceeding or not, and ensure risk assessment and risk management is considered throughout.
“The health and wellbeing of everyone is our primary importance and we are committed to operating in the national interest. This is an ever-changing situation and we will update the guidance when necessary.
“A number of members have expressed concern that we originally advised clubs to continue training as schools were open and have now changed that advice.
“The change followed the stronger advice from Government to avoid non-essential activities, take on social responsibility and ensure social distancing.
“I appreciate for those of us with chlorine in our blood, swimming does feel essential, but in reality it is not the same as going to school. The majority of schools had curtailed extra-curricular activities, before the decision to announce they were closing from Friday, which adds weight to the guidance we have given.
“We are working to obtain the best advice possible and will continue to share this with you.”