A Plymouth institution fights for survival

With a fresh round of Brexit voting threatening the horizon, another local success story faces a tough bought of trouble in trying to stay afloat the rough funding waters.

The Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club (PARC) has been based on the river Plym since 1947 and has been a pillar of the rowing community for the duration of that time, leading most of the regional titles to boast a full trophy display.

You’d be forgiven for driving past the unassuming clubhouse, but perhaps you’ve noticed the dilapidated building, slowly falling apart perched between the Embankment and the river, and this is the heart of the club’s issue.

Caught in a vicious circle, the club’s boathouse is in need of renovation and extension to fit more boats and allow more people to row. But, without funding, the club is stuck with a limit of a hundred members, members who often drift astray in search of other rowing organisations in Devon to provide up to date facilities.

Additionally, without upgrades, the club is still unable to provide facilities for disabled rowers which further handicaps funding since they’re not technically providing a service for all members of society.

What adds insult to injury for PARC is the fact that they’re meant to be supported by national and local governing bodies, but both have overlooked them, opting to invest their money further north in the county in areas of more affluence like Totness and Salcombe.

Sporting England, the governing body for sport in the UK, controls the funding pot for all sports, using a mixture of lottery taxation and government grants. Rowing, which is the only Olympic sport to have medalled in every summer Olympic Games since 1988, is one of Sporting England’s ‘core eight’ Olympic sports and is due to receive over £37 million over the next year, money that’s meant to be dispersed between the countries top athletes and 575 local clubs.

In Andy Parkinson’s yearly British rowing’s statement, though, it would seem the money is destined to be kept from local clubs:

“We will be continuing our efforts to increase mass market participation in rowing through indoor rowing, and have received investment from Sport England specifically to achieve this objective.

“With a current market size of 1.3 million indoor rowers and a potential market of nearly 16 million, this area of the sport presents a huge opportunity for growth.”

In addition to the shift towards indoor rowing, British rowing has been forced to reduce their community support officers from seven to three to cover the entirety of the UK. Providing vital knowledge, support officers are meant to help clubs like PARC in applying for funding, but with the closest support being based in Bristol, many clubs are left daunted by the prospect of asking for money, unsure of what they’re even eligible for.

Plymouth City Council has a mandatory obligation to make sure local constituents are healthy and recently received £250.000 in external funding to invest in local sporting ventures. But to the council, the rowing club is a nicety unworthy of their funding pot.

Without national and local help, the club faces a real uphill struggle over the next five years as the fleet of boats continues to age and members continue to leave. Overlooked by the council and forgotten by Sporting England, the club has quite literally begun to crumble into the river with no clear answer on the horizon.



Robert Tunley @rtunley

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