Swim England Apologises After Young Swimmers Sent “Scaremongering” Email With Warning Of Club Suspensions
Swim England had apologised after being slammed on social media for sending out what parents of swimmers have described as a “scaremongering email” to junior athletes along with other members being warned of potential club suspensions.
In an email sent out in the name of the Development Team at Swim England, young athletes, some described a being as young as 11 and 12, were informed that their club might be suspended within a month, “impacting you as a member of Swim England”.
Parents demanded an apology on social media and one followed this evening in response to questions from SOS, the regulator also stating that no-one under 13 should have received any direct communication because emails are sent to parents and guardians in such cases.
The email notes that If clubs do not complete “all the required evidence for its SwimMark or Club Affiliation renewal” within two weeks, they risk suspension from their region and Swim England, which would put at risk the ability of swimmers to race at team competitions, the email received by youngsters noted.
SwimMark accreditation is Swim England’s “quality standard for clubs”, which recognises “high standards of governance, sustainability and effectiveness”, the association notes on its website in a year in which it was heavily criticised by a scathing independent report.
Commissioned by funding body Sport England, the Weston Report made nine recommendations for a major overhaul of Swim England’s handling of complaints and related disciplinary practices and procedures, which the Report described as “failing” the sport and its members.
Among other things, procedures left coaches suspended either indefinitely for years or penalised in a manner Weston describes as “excessive” and “overreach”. The Weston recommendations were all due to be in place by this month.
Now, the SwimMark email has caused further angst for members and anger at Swim England. Clubs, officials, volunteers and parents livid that children they say are aged between 11 and 16 years of age have received an email telling them that their club is at risk of suspension.
In a statement to SOS, Swimming England noted:
“We apologise if the emails sent to members, particularly junior members, have caused any confusion or distress. We will be reviewing our communication process to ensure this situation does not arise in the future. We can confirm that emails were sent to junior club members. Emails to members aged under 13 were sent to parent/guardian email addresses.”Swim England
While GDPR rules do allow directly mailing to teenagers, most 13-16 year olds are registered in the Swim England system with their parent or guardian’s email addresses rather than their personal emails, a spokesman noted.
The email from Swim England notes that swimmers would still be able to compete in open competitions and volunteer through their affiliation as an individual should their club miss the renewal-process deadline.
However, it concludes: “Unfortunately, if after 28 days the club remains non-compliant, the affiliation will be suspended, impacting you as a member of Swim England. Any membership of others clubs will not be affected.”
Parents and others lamented the implied turmoil to their lives that this would bring, including upset over having to leave a club children were happy at and had grown up at with friends and for many dictating a much bigger commute to another club if they wanted to continue swimming training.
Here is a taste of the concerns being expressed by members of Swim England on social media today:
Swim England Statement in Full
A Swim England spokesperson said: “Each year we email clubs to remind them that their Club Affiliation and SwimMark deadline is approaching and that they need to take appropriate action to process their renewal.
“In the past we only emailed club members if their club had failed to complete the renewal process in time, thereby informing the swimmer that their membership had been temporarily paused.
“In previous years, we received feedback from a number of club members asking us to also email them with a reminder two weeks from the deadline so they could support the relevant people at their clubs in the renewal process if required. We took that feedback on board and this year sent out such emails.
“We can confirm that emails were sent to junior club members. Emails to members aged under 13 were sent to parent/guardian email addresses, as were the vast majority of the remaining emails sent to under 16s, albeit with the emails addressed to the young person concerned.
“We apologise if the emails sent to members, particularly junior members, have caused any confusion or distress. We will be reviewing our communication process to ensure this situation does not arise in the future.”
Ongoing Club Complaints
Some of the concerns expressed by club members run parallel to those that affected the mental health of young swimmers and badly disrupted the lives of families at the Ellesmere Titans as a result of their club’s closure.
That club was closed down in circumstances that remain at the heart of a highly contentious and ongoing dispute, and which was a catalyst for the Weston Report. Independent barrister Louis Weston concluded that the procedures that led to the club’s closure “failed” the sport. He could see no basis for the disaffiliation in the evidence before him.
However, the remit for the Report did not allow him to recommend action or make findings on specific cases (just the procedures), and Swim England has refused requests from Titans parents for an independent review of the disaffiliation process despite Weston’s damning verdict on the procedures that Swim England used.
That Swim England has not submitted to any independent scrutiny of its conduct, either in this case or in other cases, is subject to ongoing complaints to Sport England and higher authorities.