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Rowers in Putney. Credit: Port of London Authority
Rowers in Putney. Credit: Port of London Authority

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London Sport and Port of London Authority investigate future of water sports on South East’s ‘blue’ spaces

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% 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 (see below) by 24 April.

All respondents will be entered in a draw to win £250 in one of three categories.

Lorna Leach, Strategic Relationship Manager, London Sport, said:

“We're excited to be working with the Port of London Authority on Active Thames. 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.

“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.”

Jenny Cooper, Sports Participation & Community Outreach Manager, PLA, said:

“Covid-19 has really highlighted the benefits of outdoor exercise to health and wellbeing, with people turning to new sports and discovering local spaces.

“We saw a huge increase in new river users in the summer and we want them to come back, to keep active all year round and to enjoy the water safely.

“This survey will help us understand our new and existing audiences better, provide more opportunities, and support the incredible network of volunteers and staff who make sport happen.”

“It’s a key part of our long-term Thames Vision strategy, to maximise the social, economic and environmental benefits the river offers.”

The survey is available to complete now:

Participant (Anyone using blue space for recreation)

Coach (Anyone directly coaching participants, whether volunteering or paid)

Administrator (Anyone providing administrative support, whether volunteering or paid. This section includes questions on facilities and participation levels)




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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

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London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

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