THERE are fears some of City of Oxford Swimming Club’s (COSC) brightest prospects could be forced away by a bitter dispute between coaches and management.

COSC’s entire coaching team resigned last Monday following accusations of bullying and harassment by committee members, who strongly deny the claims.

Original story: Members dragged into swimming club's messy dispute

The five-strong group walked out with immediate effect, days before an internal disciplinary investigation into some coaches’ behaviour was due to end.

But with COSC’s home pool at The Leys Pools and Leisure Centre in Blackbird Leys reopening on Monday, both sides are concerned about the impact this has on swimmers.

The club has more than 200 members aged seven to 70, but it is understood some of their high-performance athletes are looking to move on.

One parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said their teenage son had already been for trials at other clubs.

“The kids built up a relationship with their coaches and a lot are already trying to get out of the club,” they added.

“No-one would have expected this to happen – we knew there were tensions, but we assumed common sense would prevail.

“People will drift away, but other clubs won’t have the capacity to take all of them.

“You’re wiping five coaches out of the eco-system of Oxfordshire.

“It’s the children who have suffered.”

COSC are trying to fill the roles vacated by head coach Amanda Booth, age-group coach Mikey Hire, senior coach Zichen Liu, group coach Fabian Whitbread and Matt Croyle, who was lead strength and conditioning.

A letter circulated to swimmers last Monday explained they felt they could no longer deliver a ‘coach-led, athlete-centred, and committee-supported’ programme.

It follows a drawn-out dispute, with Brian McGuinness, executive director of the British Swimming Coaches Association (BSCA), getting involved with a lengthy attack on the club.

COSC has called this a ‘co-ordinated effort to disrupt our return to training’.

The coaches were suspended on March 5, after writing to members about the distress the complaints against them had caused.

The parent said: “They made it clear that if the committee stayed they would leave.”

A stand-in team is now delivering sessions while the club looks to fill the vacancies.

Rachel Hayman, whose 13-year-old daughter is in the development squad, admitted the upheaval would have an impact.

She said: “They (the children) are aware of it.

“I’m disappointed and surprised they all resigned at the same time.”

Ms Hayman, who volunteers with the club, added: “Swimmers have high ambitions, so the loss of high-quality coaches leaves a massive gap.

“They (the replacement coaches) don’t have the same depth of experience, but they’re qualified.”

Although some high-performance swimmers are already believed to have left, Ms Hayman said the turnout at her daughter’s first session back was only ‘slightly’ down and the atmosphere was positive.

COSC said in a statement: “Our club’s focus right now is on all our 200-plus swimmers and their welfare, as they return to the pools after nearly four months out of the water.

“We and our members are concentrating on getting back to a full swimming timetable in the coming weeks, the impending opening of the main pool at Blackbird Leys and on rebuilding our beloved club.

“The majority of our members, out at reopened pools in Oxford and Kidlington this week, want our club to begin to move on from this third national lockdown and events of recent weeks. We intend to do just that.

“We support everyone who swims with the club, whether they are beginning lessons or have the hope of one day competing at the highest levels of the sport, as a club swimmer (Toby Mackay-Champion) is doing this week at the British Championships and Olympic trials in London.”