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Chief Exec of Swim England, Jane Nickerson, replies to water polo concerns -

Following concerns raised about Swim England’s recent appointment of a consultant to review water polo in England, “Will another Swim England consultant report deliver a ‘great future’ for water polo, or is it just a pointless & expensive smoke screen – you decide!” we have received the following response from the Chief Executive of Swim England, Jane Nickerson. You can read both Jane Nickerson’s statement and our subsequent reply below.

If you would like to have your say and pass your message on to Swim England, don’t miss the opportunity; Dec 3rd – 17th at venues around the country. Full info here

Jane Nickerson’s response to the concerns raised, dated 02.11.19

Thank you for your email which I have considered carefully.  Rather than answer a set of questions around the appointment of an individual I think it would be more helpful to you and other members of the water polo community If I set out our overall plans for water polo which clearly shows why we have asked David Meli to take a lead role.

It is fair to say that following the loss of funding from both UK Sport and Sport England for water polo there has been a lack of clarity around the responsibilities of British Swimming and Swim England for both the governance of the sport and the day to day management of the whole programme.  The Swim England board filled the funding gap left by Sport England for this year and has committed the same level for 2020.

The work we are currently undertaking is as follows:

  1. Clarification of the roles and responsibilities of British Swimming and Swim England as follows:

Swim England is responsible for:

The development of water polo in England – this includes START water polo, club development etc.  A considerable amount of this work is through the English regions.

The England talent pathway which needs to be reviewed to ensure talented players are given the opportunity to advance – this will include a review of standards, metrics etc.

The England domestic competition pathway – this needs to be reviewed in liaison with British Swimming and the British Water Polo League to ensure events are aligned and provide a full pathway.

The England international competition pathway – this needs to be reviewed in liaison with British Swimming to ensure appropriate competition is provided for all ages and is part of a full development pathway.

The provision of robust selection policies for England team and squad selection – players and team staff.

The development of coaches and officials within England.

The administration and leadership of the sport within England – the governance structure to be put in place to ensure the delivery of the above.

The management of budgets, parental contributions etc. for English activity – domestic and international.

The promotion of the sport within England – media coverage etc.


British Swimming is responsible for:

The Great Britain international competition pathway

The administration and leadership of the sport within Great Britain – this will be through the Home Country Partnership Group initially

The provision of robust selection policies for Great Britain team and squad selection – players and team staff.

The administration of the International Transfer Certificates – liaising with the Home Countries to ensure information is shared.

The management of budgets, parental contributions etc. for British activity – domestic and international.

The promotion of the Great Britain elements of the sport – media coverage etc.

Alignment with the three Home Countries – Scottish Swimming, Swim Wales and Swim England.


This will be tabled at the forthcoming meeting of the CEOs of the Home Countries and British Swimming.  British Swimming will be given the opportunity to commission one of the Home Nations to lead on their behalf if they wish on a formal basis.


  1. Funding bids:

There is an opportunity to apply for both UK Sport funding and Sport England funding for the next cycle – April 2021 to March 2025.

There is set criteria for this and we need to work hard to show that we can achieve the criteria, especially for the UK Sport funding.

However, the funding process in itself will be helpful to the sport as it requires the completion of their “what it takes to win” model which will show us where the current gaps are.

British Swimming has asked David Meli to lead on this piece of work on their behalf


  1. Swim England have appointed David Meli to pull all the Swim England work together through dialogue and consultation with the aim of ensuring there is a strong governance in place for the sport.

This will lead to a review of the structure of the sport in England to ensure the points set out above under the responsibilities of Swim England are delivered.

It is likely to lead to a redefined grass roots programme, redefined talent programme, redefined domestic and international competition programme.

Alignment with British Swimming to ensure there is a continuous pathway is essential.

All our disciplines rely on volunteers and our success depends on the willingness to work together to achieve the outcomes we all desire.  The appointment of David Meli is instrumental in our quest to consult and collaborate with those delivering water polo at all levels alongside parents and players who we know provide the lions share of the cost of playing at national and international level in addition to club and training fees.   David has not been appointed to undertake another  review – the findings of the Tunnicliffe report hold true today and many elements have been included in the current programme.  However, it is essential we use the findings of that report alongside the views of those involved in the sport today and put in place an implementation plan which can and will develop the game based on the current funding position.  Work on future funding will compliment this but delivering now in accordance with the current budgets will ensure the sport continues to develop.   We do not have the resource within our staffing structure to undertake this work and we also feel that a more independent person, with experience of developing a similar team sport (albeit without the involvement of water!) will provide additional benefit to the process.

I cannot stress strongly enough that there is a willingness within England, both at Executive and Board level to make this work but it will take the whole sector pulling together to ensure positive change is delivered quickly.

Best wishes


Our reply to Jane Nickerson, dated 08.11.19

Thank you for your reply, and in particular your strong expression of support for delivering the change we need in the way water polo is governed and managed.

I agree that working collaboratively with the sector will be essential to the success of any initiative proposed by Swim England and/or British Swimming. As I am sure you are aware, currently there is mistrust of both the NGBs within the community, and a belief that both NGBs are disinterested in the sport. This perception has been cemented by the demise of the WPMG, and therefore it is fair to say that overcoming the gulf that now exists between the NGBs and many in the polo community will require significant effort.

I wish you well in the new endeavour which I suggest will require long term change in the culture of management of water polo by NGBs in order to be successful; with NGBs embracing on-going consultation and transparency, rather than the current perceived unilateral decision making and then opacity regarding the rationale for decisions made. Although I am pleased to note that David Meli’s work will involve community consultation, this will need to become the norm as we move forward if trust is to be regained.

My advice would be to ensure that that the water polo community is routinely consulted before decisions are made (whether strategic or operational), and that decisions made regarding water polo are fully transparent, meaning that there is effective communication of both the reasons for decision making as well as about decisions themselves.

If we can assist with achieving transparency and effective communication and thereby help to bridge the divide for the good of the sport, then please do get in touch

Best wishes


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8 responses to “Chief Exec of Swim England, Jane Nickerson, replies to water polo concerns”

  1. Christine Whittaker says:

    This a positive and welcome communication and I hope that the recent increase in direct communication using Facebook and Twitter is an honest attempt to bridge the chasm between SE and the wider water polo community.

    It will be actions that determine whether this is genuine or not, I, for one, really hope it is and that we can all work together to take the fantastic sport of water polo to where it deserves to be; competitive on the international stage and offering an inclusive opportunity to many more people to improve their health & well being .

  2. Barry Hurst says:

    What a load of bollocks is Jane Nickerson in the real world???
    Go and look at Drench Water Polo??? Oh what is that I hear you say? It’s a completely independent school for water polo with kids learning from age 6 and upwards completely self funding with 100 members.

  3. CEO’s…’The Executive’…Consultants and The Board…sounds like the Co-operative in the 90’s… it’s time for a revolutionary change NOT small steps discussed for months on end then achieving nothing!

  4. Neal Greenslade says:

    Dialogue, recognition of problems that exist, a common goal and the implementation of a mutually agreed plan (that is followed through yet regularly reviewed by all parties in a collective manner) can only move Water Polo forward – this is a good start!

  5. Neal Greenslade says:

    Barry asked us to look at the Drench Water Club – I have tried but could only find a similar site which was https://www.drenched if this is same one I am afraid it may owe a little to SwimEngland as it states


    We work closely with Swim England and were lucky to benefit from a START grant to help us launch our leagues

    If this is not the School my apologies and is the correct web site available? I am often the first to query SwimEngland but if they are helping with funding this school and it’s successful ………

  6. Matt White says:


    Matt here from Drenched. We are an independently run Water Polo school based in Sussex. We are members of Swim England and STA with swim school status (as they didn’t have specific Water Polo school) and we did benefit from START funding for some goals and a video to help us grow the game. We used the funding in 2019 to launch our internal under 9s and under 11s league. However next season (2020) we aim to launch a 2007 league for teams in the south that will be self-funded.

    All the best,

  7. Tony Coleby says:

    Positive words are easy to craft but are meaningless until corroborated by actions.
    Providing answers to the specific questions posed is (I guess) far more difficult and potentially very easy to debunk if inaccurate.
    I’m am disappointed that Swim England have chosen the former option.

  8. Keith Young says:

    The last time I was informed by a governing body ( the ASA), they were going from the board with 2 technical officers (Tony Holmeyard & Helen Elkington)who did a brilliant job in the promotion of swimming.
    At one point this system was superseded by bringing in a “more professional setup”,this consisted off instead of a aPresident & Secretary to an Executive manager & a group of board paid a large salary for the period this apparently was necessary happening without cost to the swimmers apart from a modest membership levy to the County & ASA. Within 2 years registration was forced through,”training fund “allowances were made available to high flyers 7 since then continued increases in the fee required.
    This seems reminiscent of that,WATER POLO look out for what appears to be a friendly hand!!

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