Swimming poolJUNE 15 - THE Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) today called for £100 million of investment towards new swimming facilities to enhance Britain's chances of success at the London 2012 Olympics while leaving a legacy for a healthier nation.

A lack of Olympic-sized, 50 metre long course pools has been a major issue for Britain's swimming elite for decades but with the 2012 Games just over the horizon, as well as new Government targets on increasing health and beating obesity, the ASA is calling on the powers that be to invest in swimming facilities across the country.

"This vital investment would double the numbers of 50m pools in this country overnight," said ASA Facilities Officer Noel Winter. "At the moment we have just 21 long course facilities throughout Britain. This is less than European cities such as Paris and Berlin but with £100 million investment we could greatly increase this figure.

"We are in dire need of more 50m pools in this country. The ASA recognises that to give the British athlete the best chance of competing and enjoying success at the London 2012 Olympic Games we need to give them facilities.

"But this call for investment isn't just about elite athletes. These facilities would offer a real legacy to a public which is continually asked by the Government to become fitter and healthier but lacks the pool space to meet these needs."

The ASA's call for swimming pool investment follows a damning watchdog report this week that described sports centres and swimming pools across the country as crumbling after years of neglect.

An Audit Commission report blamed local authorities and their reluctance to spend money on sport as the major reasons for decline in the numbers and quality of sports facilities, two thirds of which are over 20 years old.

"Money is needed to ensure we have a new stock of 50m pools across the entire country," said Winter. "Around £5 million can make all the difference to pools that are in the planning stage. It's the difference between actually being built or not being built.

"Therefore the ASA calls upon authorities and agencies to make the necessary funds available to realise this Olympic dream as well as increasing participation and improving the health of a nation for years to come."

A new stock of pools would go towards improving the situation revealed by the watchdog report which said "the general stock of sports centre has deteriorated in quality" and blamed "historic low funding and poor management" for this reason.

This investment would also reverse the alarming statistic within the Audit Commission findings that the number of new pools and sports centres built has dropped by more than half since 2003. "Across the country there are plans to build new pools but they won't see the light of day because of a lack of investment," said Winter.

"This £100 million figure would allow these projects to be realised and would meet needs highlighted in the report. The outcome would only be a positive one as the new 50m pools would also have a direct impact on the health and well being of a nation.

"All the statistics show that 50m pools get more use than 25m facilities. These new, well-managed aquatic centres would be a real boost to tackling obesity while benefiting our Olympic prospects.

"If we want to have a successful 2012 Olympics the athletes have to train in 50m pools. It really is as simple as that but we haven't got those pools at our disposal at the moment. There just aren't enough of them.

"Our young stars of tomorrow need the facilities today and £100 million will provide them with the essential element to make the most of their talent. Olympic medallist David Davies is backing the call for investment and is a prime example of how utilising a 50m pool in preparation can benefit in performance.

"At the moment the British athlete is at an immediate disadvantage because the majority of us train in short course, 25m pools while all the major meets, including the Olympics, are in long course, 50m pools," said the Cardiff-based swimmer.

"We do our best with what we've got but I spend 70 per cent of my time training in a 25m pool because the closest long course facility is a two-hour round trip away.

"Since the 50m pool in Swansea opened I am able to train there up to four times a week and that has improved my swimming no end. If I had the option though I would train full time in a 50m pool as it's the only way we can compete to the best of our abilities against the rest of the world."