Is the health and welfare of Manchester United's team more important than your own? Well, we know of a few misguided folks who might answer yes, but that's not the point. In today's Guardian Janet Smith, author of Liquid Assets, offers the information that whilst Man Utd Ltd Inc or whatever they are these days was recently awarded £30, 000 to Improve the health of its staff from Sport England - those nice folks who've been distributing £2.2 billion of lottery money to sports since 1994 - not a single lotto penny in 12 years has been spent on any of our open air swimming pools.
Today Ms Smith will be presenting a summary of the Reviving Lidos conference to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in the hope that it might raise their interest in changing Sport England's lack of investment in lidos, despite their criteria that grants will be offered for opportunities that foster social inclusion, boost health and combat crime. Of course Sport England have to have their criteria, how could any kind of organisation exist in this humanitarian, benevolant, civilised western society we live in without them? But perhaps someone might want to take them on a day out to Brockwell, or any of the other 97 pools left after over 300 other closures and explain to them s.l.o.w.l.y. exactly why open air pools pretty much do all of the above. Maybe we could drag them to one of only 8 listed pools left open. Tie bricks to their legs and throw them in. OK, perhaps a little harsh, maybe just give them a good ducking before being thrown out for misbehaving by the life guard.
Sport England have defended themselves by saying that most open air pools have restricted opening hours, regardless of whether this is the truth or not; the heated Hampton Pool is open 365 days a year. We don't see Man U's players playing 365 days of the year, although perhaps they should. Make 'em earn some of those ridiculous wages they get paid for a 90 minute run around a couple of days a week.
Smith's arguments that the current situation is ridiculous considering the current various campaigns to improve social welfare, reduce obesity levels and improve our quality of life ring loud and true. The most exercise we've ever gained from a football team is getting up to turn off the TV any time one appears. We have, however, spent many happy hours splashing around Tooting Lido in the summer months, chatting with old friends, making new ones and replacing the years that commuter-related stress was taking off our lives with new happy and relaxed ones.
Open air pools are not only a cultural heritage worth hanging on to - and some have received money from the lottery heritage fund - but as the midday sun grows longer and hotter, a grand place for mad dogs and English persons to congregate, chill,and get some exercise. Not perhaps a bad deal for anyone really who doesn't fancy the long trip out to the nearest swimmable beach.
Image from Freston's Flickr Broomhill Pool set