Portsmouth Northsea set £20,000 Crowdfunding target after being hit ‘mentally, physically and financially by the pandemic’
Portsmouth Northsea have a proud history since being formed in the Northsea pub in Stamshaw in 1927.
The club have produced two of England’s finest swimmers of modern times - Katy Sexton and Gemma Spofforth.
Sexton became the first British swimmer to win a World Championship title, when she won the Women's 200m backstroke at the 2003 World Championships. She also competed in two Olympics and three Commonwealth Games.
Spofforth is a former world record-holder and one-time world champion in the 100-metre backstroke, winning eight medals in major international championships.
Pre-pandemic, around 250 swimmers - aged between 7-74 - would train across 80 sessions every week, with daily sessions starting at 5am.
The swimmers would train across four pools in Portsmouth - the main base at the Mountbatten Leisure Centre plus the facilities at HMS Temeraire, St Edmund’s Catholic School and College Park Infant School.
Professional coaching is delivered by the club’s ten coaches - led by head coach Adam Parfitt - supported by strength and conditioning coach Tom Company, who holds a MSc in Sports Performance from the University of Portsmouth.
Other main coaches are Lee Baldwin (Junior Performance Squad), James Warrener (Potential 1 Squad) and Sam Redman (Masters Squad).
But, like many grassroots sports club, Northsea’s finances have been savaged during almost 12 months of restrictions.
Usual money-making avenues - memberships, Open Meets and the club’s Learn to Swim programme - have been paused through three different lockdowns.
Northsea have previously been chasing whatever grants they can apply for, with a £10,000 Sport England cheque the largest received in the past year.
Now, though, they are going down a route many other local sports clubs have taken - online Crowdfunding.
It has worked for Gosport Borough FC, who initially wanted to raise £2,500 for their ‘Feed a Family in Need’ project, but the donations are now over £9,700.
It also worked for Portsmouth Cricket Club, who set a target of £20,000 for pavilion renovation work. Again, the target was reached and donations now stand at almost £23,000 (more when the Government’s Gift Aid scheme is taken into account).
Northsea's Crowdfunder page set up at the back end of last week states: ‘With our pools shut for many months we have been hit hard mentally, physically and financially by the pandemic.
‘Our amazing coaches and volunteers have worked hard to keep our swimmers physically and mentally fit and now we need to need to ensure we are also financially fit.
‘Swimming is a sport for life, it can be competitive, fun and rewarding.
‘It is a vital life skill for all children and especially for those living on an island like Portsmouth and it's great to see many of our swimmers have taken to sea swimming during lockdown.’
Northsea have set themselves an ambitious target of raising £20,000 via swimmers embarking on a series of fundraising challenges prior to the sport restarting when pools are allowed to reopen on April 12.
Under the scheme heading ‘March Fish Out Of Water Challenge’, one member has pledged to cycle 400km by the end of the month while others are aiming to climb the equivalent of Ben Nevis - roughly five times up Butser Hill. Another aims to swim 25km in the sea.
If and when Northsea can raise £10,000, Sport England will match-fund it.
The first aim is to raise at least £5,000 from a minimum number of 75 supporters. As of today, 36 supporters have raised £1,335.
Northsea secretary Emma Kettle said: ‘If we can raise £20,000 it would cover some of the money we have lost out on.
‘After the ‘Fish Out Of Water Challenge’, we are going to work really hard on coming up with different initiatives.
‘The committee want to ensure the club can keep going and develop, and to do that we need to start fundraising right now.
‘So far we have concentrated on getting grants, but we have seen other sports clubs successfully use Crowdfunding to raise money and now we want to see what we can do.’
Kettle admits membership fees - the lifeline of any sports club - have been slashed during the pandemic ‘at times to zero.’
Some swimmers have continued to pay around £10-£20 a month for land training sessions put on by Company via Zoom.
That’s a big difference, though, compared to the fact some were paying over £100 a month before coronavirus wrapped its vice-like grip around society.
In addition, Northsea’s 50m facility at the Mountbatten Centre meant they used to regularly hold three well-attended Open Meets a year.
Local clubs such as Fareham Nomads and Gosport Dolphins would be invited, as well as clubs from the Home Counties area.
No competitions have been held since last March and the club are waiting on governing body Swim England’s advice as to when they can restart in 2021.
‘We have hundreds of swimmers at the Open Meets,’ said Kettle. ‘We are really, really busy - all eight lanes are used continually all day, from 9am to around 7pm.
‘Swimmers pay to enter, we can sell programmes and do raffles - they’re a major source of income, that’s how swimming clubs make their money.’
Northsea’s members are no doubt counting down the days until they can return to the pool, for the first time since mid-December.
Pre-pandemic, the keenest swimmers racked up at the Mountbatten Centre for a 5am-7am pool session.
‘We offer that session every day,’ said Kettle. ‘It’s very popular - the car park is full of our swimmers in the mornings.
‘There are also sessions starting at 5pm and going into the evening.
‘Every Saturday morning there was a three-hour session, from 6am-9am, with two hours of pool work and an hour of land training.
‘Our swimmers have huge dedication.’
For further information, visit: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/keep-portsmouth-swimming