The West’s Past – The “Not So Swinging Sixties”

Extracted from “100 Years of Scottish Swimming” – Peter Bilsborough (1988)

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Scottish competitive swimming went from strength to strength.
In the 1960s the bubble burst. The Scottish clubs lost ground to the English.

In 1968 Jock Coutts, the S.A.S.A. Secretary, wrote:
‘Our achievements in all branches of the sport does not make very good reading,
and with only a little over two years to go until the Commonwealth Games in
Edinburgh we have a hard row to furrow to produce a team worthy of Scotland.’

Understandably morale was low and some people looked for scapegoats and explanations. The Association’s administrators came in for some criticism.
They were even blamed for not producing winning teams.
Alec Spence, the S.A.S.A. President, replied on their behalf and outlined the way ahead.
In a forthright address to 188 delegates at the annual general meeting in 1968 he said:

‘Your Executive, Council and Committees have received much criticism for failing to produce winning teams.
Today I shall place the ball firmly in your court and suggest that the blame lies with you.
It is the duty of the administration to govern and legislate, to provide the opportunities for top competition – it is your duty to provide the broad base of swimmers from which to select District and Scottish teams.
This you are failing to do.
We exist to promote swimming. . . and promote means to raise to a higher level.’

Although a lot of clubs worked hard in the 1950s to improve their competitive standards, some others did little.
Spence was critical of their approach and asked them to improve their standards or leave the Association. He said:

We do not raise the standard by having a regular club night, opening the doors and smiling benevolently upon a horde of youngsters enjoying a free-for-all’. If this is a picture of your club I suggest you are wasting your time in the Association.’

The clubs were left in no doubt about what was expected of them.
It was expensive to provide potential champions with top class international competition.
Sponsors provided some extra money but the Association had to, and had to be seen to, help itself.
Clubs paid an annual affiliation fee of 30s. in the first half of the sixties.
A membership of 173 clubs in 1966 generated £264 which was only 8% of its total income. The fee was raised in 1967 as part of the drive to give more commitment to the Association and generate additional income. It was set at £7 which raised £917 or 16% of the annual income. As fees were increased the membership declined. In 1966 there were 173 affiliated clubs but a year later only 131.
It appears that a quarter of the membership was not prepared or financially able to meet the Association’s challenge. Additional income was generated from the introduction of a competition fee.
Any swimmer competing in a District or National Championship was required to register with the Association before being allowed to compete. The fee was set at 2s. 6d. per annum.
Both initiatives provided a welcome boost to the Association’s coffers.

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