Shropshire Star

Otters face challenge of keeping club afloat

Oswestry Otters are hoping they won’t have to wave goodbye to another much-needed cash windfall.


The swimming club have planned to stage an open meeting in Liverpool in July that will help boost their finances.

But the event, which is open to clubs from around the country, is on hold at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Oswestry head coach Tim Hastie is holding out hope that it does get the go-ahead after last year’s meeting was cancelled. The revenue generated would provide a huge boost to the club, which was formed in 1976, but regardless of whether there is any action Hastie is confident the club will win their battle to stay afloat.

“We were going very strong before the coronavirus outbreak, we were nearly full membership-wise,” said Hastie. “The challenge is how many people will come back once we return to action. And we will also have the challenge of fundraising.

“We are hoping to stage an open meeting in Liverpool on July 13 and 14.

“There isn’t a pool big enough in Shropshire to run a competition. Most pools are built to 25 metres, but to have a meet you need one that is 25.3 metres and that way you can have touch pads in.

“You can’t run a licensed meet without a timing system.

“The restrictions are in place up until the end of May, if those are lifted and we can get back to training then, ideally, we could run it. But it’s still up in the air at the moment.

“We were meant to run the meet in Liverpool last year, but that had to be cancelled because the pool had to be closed after they had glass blown into it.

“We were estimating to make almost £4,000 profit from that, which would have been handy for the club.

“As a club we have had down points before. I think it was in 2008 when the club were a lot closer to closing down.

“It pulled through then so we have got the history and experience of pulling through and we have got the members.

“It’s going to be difficult, but I am sure there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are aware that there are many sports in the same position as us, but the sporting funds aren’t as accessible to swimming as they are to other sports.

“As a club we are trying our best to give back to the community. We are hoping to receive a grant this from Swim England to organise and run a free school gala for all of our local primary and secondary schools.

“Hopefully this will encourage more of our younger generation to get into swimming, whether that is recreational or competitive.”

Prior to the country going into lockdown, the Otters were enjoying a successful period. They gained their best ever collective results at the county championships in January, where they bagged an impressive 63 medals compared to 17 the year before.

And two swimmers, Morgan Jones and Tim Bridgwood, went desperately close to landing places at the Olympic trials.

“We class ourselves as a grassroots club,” said Hastie. “We cater for all abilities. We are not a performance club, but we have performance standard swimmers.

“And we have had quite a lot of success over the last few years. This year we had a really successful county championships, the best the club have had.

“We never had so many members go to the championships and we achieved our best medal haul.

“We also had a lot of youngsters qualify for the Midland Championships, but unfortunately they have been cancelled.

“And we had two lads, Morgan Jones and Tim Bridgwood, who were very close to qualifying for trials for the Tokyo Olympics.”

Hastie, who joined the club three years ago, has been busy ensuring the club’s 76 members are kept entertained during this spell of inactivity.

He has compiled a host of videos that can be viewed on the club’s website.

“I have been creating videos for the club, I think it’s 54 to date,” he added. “They are a mixture of sports education, talking about different strokes, turns, dives, stroke count and stroke length. And some other ones that are just a bit of fun.

“I have done interviews with ex-swimmers, coaches from Loughborough, ex-Olympian and gold medal-winning Commonwealth swimmers.

“There is a whole mixture of videos to keep our members entertained.”

The Otters train at Oswestry Leisure Centre and Oswestry School. Anyone interested in joining should go to https://oswestry for more information.