Cardiff swim club faces uncertain future after price rise

Graham Wardell
Image caption Graham Wardell said he fears more people will leave

One of Wales' most successful swimming clubs have said they face an uncertain future following a price hike from the operator of the pool they use.

City of Cardiff Swimming Club claim to have had more swimmers on Olympic and Commonwealth teams than any other UK club.

But club members now have to pay £100 a month to use Cardiff International Pool - double what they previously paid.

Pool operators Legacy Leisure said prices were fair.

The swimming club said it was concerned the increases over the past two years made it financially unsustainable for many members and a large number had already left..

Head coach Graham Wardell said: "We lost 57 members last year. The club will reduce in size so we won't need as much water time. But it'll also mean the quality the club is renowned for will no longer be there.

"We are a big, high performing club. It's allowing children, whatever their background, to have a chance to reach the top in swimming but it'll be a real shame to think we can no longer do that if more members quit because of this cost increase."

Image caption The swim club say Cardiff International Pool's price rise has made it financially unstable for many members

Some of the clubs most successful swimmers in its 45 year history include David Davies, who won silver in the 2008 Olympics and Margaret Kelly, who scooped silver in 1980.

The club's most impressive accomplishments were in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics, when the club had eight representatives on the Great Britain team.

Joanne Gossage's 14-year-old daughter, Grace, started swimming four years ago and is now competing at Welsh national level.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Davies is one of the club's most famous members

She said: "When Grace started I was paying £45 a month membership. I now pay £100 a month and there's also the other costs to incur once your child starts swimming at a higher level.

"The price rise is going to hit the families on low incomes, single parent families and families with more than one child in the club.

"These kind of price rises will make the sport prohibitive, they may start wanting to progress and do the best they can in the club, then have the door closed on them because they can't afford to carry on."

Why have the fees increased?

The club explained that up until December 2017, they were paying £115,869 per year in fees to use the pool.

However, they said in January 2018 Legacy Leisure reduced the discount the club received, and they were faced with an increase of £51,494 per year.

Following discussions, the club said the operator deferred the full payment and agreed to an additional £22,000 per year for 2018.

Club bosses explained that has still meant price increases for their members, who now pay £100 a month.

According to them, Legacy has told the club that they expect it now to fund the balance this year of the original proposed increase, and pay £167,360 per year for use of the pool.

The club also pay Legacy Leisure an additional £37,000 to run five swimming meets a year, which means charges for using the pool in 2019 will be £205,000.

What do the pool operators say?

Legacy Leisure, which operates the pool on behalf of Cardiff council, said they wanted the club to remain at the pool.

They said: "Until the end of 2017 Cardiff International Pool benefited from a £1m annual subsidy from Cardiff council. This subsidy enabled prices at the centre to be held at a significantly lower level than similar facilities across the area.

"Given the financial pressures facing local authorities, we agreed with the council to operate the pool without a subsidy from January 2018.

"City of Cardiff Swimming Club has had and continues to enjoy a very significant discount which reflects both the club's extremely high usage and its status as a performance club. The club's extensive use does restrict the provision of our own activities such as increasing opportunities for swimming lessons."

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