A SWIMMING club has branded proposed training slots in the Royal Commonwealth Pool as “laughable” and a threat to its existence.
Portobello Amateur Swimming Club (PASC) has been offered two hours of weekly training time in the facility’s 50-metre pool, which has been closed since June 2009 for refurbishment.
Edinburgh Leisure’s offer would see the club’s members train in two lanes between 8.30pm and 10.30pm on Thursdays.
Parents and coaching staff say the offer is inadequate and, combined with revised opening hours at Portobello Swim Centre, will mean the club is worse off than before redevelopment work began at the Commonwealth Pool.
Maureen Scoular, PASC vice-president, said: “If kids were to leave because they’re not getting as much access to the 50-metre pool as swimmers in other clubs then it would leave us in serious financial difficulty – we had a meeting only last week at which we had to put up annual membership fees.
“If there’s no change to the proposed training hours, it will close the club.”
Darren Ward, PASC head coach and club development officer, said: “We received two offers from Edinburgh Leisure – the original offer was for two hours in the 50-metre pool beginning at 7.30pm, which I found laughable. The second offer – starting an hour later – was an insult.
“They have spent millions redeveloping the Commonwealth Pool for clubs in the city but we are actually going to be worse off than we were.
“We will actually lose three morning pool sessions plus a land training/gym session because Portobello Swim Centre will be opening an hour later after the Commonwealth reopens. That’s four sessions that we’re missing already, with no more time in the 50-metre pool.”
The majority of training slots have been allocated to Warrender and Heart of Midlothian clubs – both part of the Edinburgh Performance Development group which provide the majority of swimmers competing at national level.
Yesterday, Warrender’s Craig Benson, 17, broke his own personal best in the 100m breaststroke at an Olympic qualifying event in London to gain a place on Team GB and set a new Scottish record.
Mr Ward said he did not disagree with allocating training sessions according to representation in national competitions but added that the offer from Edinburgh Leisure would undermine recent efforts to improve Portobello’s performance.
“In the last six months the club has really started to turn itself around,” he said. “We have national performance swimmers now and a national performance training structure.
“If we cannot maintain our training structure through sufficient pool time then swimmers will leave to get it elsewhere and we can’t stop them from doing that.”
Club member Iona Hamilton, 14, who competes in national competitions, said: “If you’re swimming at the nationals, you need time in the 50-metre pool.
“If we don’t get more of it then I’d have to think about leaving the club.”
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Leisure said: “The early-morning swim sessions which were allocated to PASC when the Royal Commonwealth Pool was closed were a temporary measure to accommodate RCP customers.
“Edinburgh Leisure has offered PASC early-morning club training sessions at the nearby Leith Victoria Swim Centre. PASC will be offered potential access to the RCP on weekend evenings when swimmers feel that 8-9.30pm on weekdays would be too late.
“Edinburgh Leisure has discussed these offers with PASC and looks forward to working with the club in the future.”