THE WELSH Government’s decision to not allow sports clubs to return to training indoors until mid-May will lead to them travelling to England, the chairman of a Gwent swimming club has said.

Last week, Mark Drakeford announced that children’s indoor activities and organised indoor activities for adults (up to 15 people) would return from May 17 – should coronavirus rates remain at low levels.

In England, however, indoor children’s activities, including club sessions for all under 18s, are allowed to resume from April 12, while sessions for adults will return no earlier than May 17.

Swim Wales has written to the Welsh Government, calling for them to follow England’s lead, while also launching a petition asking for the return date to be reconsidered.


Paul McRae, chairman of Torfaen Dolphins - one of the clubs supporting the petition, said: “It just feels like there is a massive void between what is going on in Wales and what is going on in England in terms of a return to the water and the return of sport.

“As far as we are aware, there is no scientific evidence why we shouldn’t be returning to the water.

“From a club perspective, we are looking at travelling outside of Wales to England to train from April 12 – when it is legal to do so.

“We are told that even though we can travel to England from April 12, they advise that we shouldn’t. But they have shut down entire sports. We train in chlorinated water which kills the virus. What do they expect us to do?

“I’ve driven past a few pitches this week where people have been playing football or rugby – both of which are contact sports – while we’ve been told it’s not safe for us to return. We just want a level playing field.

“It’s not just about swimming. We are one sport that needs their facilities opened. If we’re frustrated by this, how many other sports are also frustrated by this?

“We’ve been told throughout this about the benefits of being active, but it does feel like there has been a shift. The heart of our frustration is that pubs are being opened and fast-food has been open the whole way through. I’m sure the government will say it’s about jobs and about the economy, but it’s about finding that balance. It feels like we are just an afterthought.

“Whether they like it or not, they are going to push people to train in England.”

Tredegar Torpedoes Swimming Club, Heads of the Valleys Swimming Club, Cwmbran Swimming Club, City Of Newport Swimming and Water Polo Club, Chepstow and District Swimming Club, Caerphilly County Swim Squad, Caldicot Swimming Club, Abergavenny Swimming Club, and Abertillery Piranhas Swimming Club are among the other Gwent clubs to back the petition.

The announcement of Wales’ roadmap out of lockdown last week also sparked disappointment from gym owners in Gwent, some of whom will be protesting in Cardiff on April 10 – calling for gym and leisure facilities to be opened in line with those in England.

Fergus Feeney, chief executive of Swim Wales, wrote an open letter to the Welsh Government asking them to reconsider the return of organised swimming.

He described the decision to set a return date of May 17 as “disappointing and concerning in equal measures.”

“Whilst a timetable for the reopening of sport and leisure, and in particular swimming pools, across Wales is what we have asked for, the announced date of May 17 is much later than we, as a collective, had hoped for," he said.

“Over the last 12 months our sector has consistently proved our ability to adapt and respond to the pandemic and put in place the measures and mitigations required to operate safely across our clubs and facilities and this has not been reflected in the news today.

“In the 10 weeks of pool opening between September and December there were less than 10 cases in 500,000 swims recorded by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) and T&T [Track and Trace] systems.

“To say we are puzzled and confused by your approach is an understatement.

“The decision made by the Welsh Government is irrational and lacks logic, and on behalf of the tens of thousands of people we represent we would urge you to reconsider the timetable.”

The petition has attracted more than 5,800 signatures – at the time of writing – and can be viewed at