London Sport and Port of London Authority investigate future of water sports

Water sport clubs in London, Essex and Kent have a chance to shape the future of physical activity on the tidal Thames and other “blue” spaces across the region in a joint Port of London Authority (PLA) and London Sport Consultancy research project.

Initial research, conducted by London Sport in 2016/17, estimated the unused tidal Thames capacity at 40.6 per cent which represented a potential increase of 13,000 individuals using the river.

Financial concerns, lack of qualified instructors and lack of volunteers were identified as the biggest barriers to organisations aiming to increase participation.

Through a combination of surveys and direct consultation, London Sport Consultancy will gather the evidence needed to shape the development of the Active Thames programme, a new partnership with the national governing bodies for canoeing, rowing and yachting and other interested organisations, such as the Canal & River Trust.

The research aims to help partners better understand the factors affecting participation in water sports on the tidal Thames from organisational, administrative, delivery and participation perspectives.

It will also provide a clear picture of the participant and workforce profile, including, identified gaps in engagement, recommendations on how to diversify participation on the water, and a better understanding of the barriers and needs affecting participation.

As well as the solutions and opportunities to overcome these barriers, a plan will be produced to grow the water sports offer and building capacity across organisations delivering, and supporting the delivery, on the tidal Thames.

Ultimately, this will facilitate decision-making and identify opportunities to increase public participation in sport on the capital’s river and beyond.

Coaches, volunteers and all participants, with access to waterways covering the equivalent of 15,000 football pitches, from Teddington to the North Sea, are being asked to submit their views, by completing a short questionnaire by 24 April.

“We expect this research to provide a strong base on which to increase physical activity levels and develop the workforce behind water sports provision across London to provide inclusive activity and employment,” said Lorna Leach, strategic relationship manager at London Sport.

“The programme seeks to open up much-needed blue space across the capital supporting the diverse communities of London to safely access the river for water sport activities and benefit from the significant health and wellbeing outcomes that physical activity offers.”

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