08 Jul 2020

The African continent is looking forward to playing its part in the success of World Table Tennis (WTT), the new commercial and events business of the ITTF, launching in 2021, which sets out to elevate table tennis to new heights by applying a fresh approach to the way the sport is run and presented.

With many member associations facing severe economic challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, WTT is considered the perfect platform for the sport and all of its stakeholders to bounce back positively and move together in the right direction.

In order to better educate and fully integrate the region within WTT’s plans, a webinar was held specifically for ITTF Family members located in Africa on Wednesday 8 July 2020. Twenty-eight member associations attended the webinar, as well as the Africa Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), who expressed their full support for WTT.

Significantly, the webinar was attended by the recently appointed WTT Council Chair, Liu Guoliang (who is also President of the Chinese Table Tennis Association) and WTT Board Member, Khalil Al-Mohannadi (also ITTF Deputy President and Qatar Table Tennis Association President).

Liu Guoliang held the following speech:

“Hello everyone, I am very happy to be talking with you today for the first time as WTT Council Chair. Many of you are longstanding friends, who I would meet often at major international events. Now thanks to this webinar, we are able to discuss the future development of our sport, and this represents a show of unity among table tennis people all over the world.

“We are all members of the global table tennis family and we are willing to contribute to the rise of World Table Tennis. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, with sports events shut down around the world, this may be the most difficult period in our careers. At this time, it is even more necessary for everyone to unite and focus all their strengths around promoting the return of table tennis events.

“I believe everyone already knows that WTT is an exciting, large-scale project and many table tennis stakeholders have been preparing for this moment for a long time. Our future goal is to develop table tennis as one of the world’s leading sports. Table tennis should not only create more star players and fans, but also feature the most exciting events. Players and fans are at the core of WTT. We hope that, through future WTT events, Africa will have more stars like Quadri Aruna.

“In future, WTT will pay more attention to its collaborations with Africa. More than a month ago, at the WTT China forum, Aruna was very concerned about the qualifications of players to WTT events and also asked whether we could host WTT Grand Smash events in Africa. I want to say that these points are all within the scope of WTT’s planning. What we have to do in the future is to allow more people to participate in and to be aware of international table tennis events in order to enhance the influence of table tennis worldwide.

“At present, the situation of restarting events is varying from nation to nation. The situation in China is relatively well controlled, so the preliminary plan is to host an Olympic warm-up event in China in August, which will be held in full accordance with the Olympic playing system and the most stringent safety measures.

“Finally, thank you for your support to WTT. All of you are experienced table tennis people. I too have played, coached, and am president of the China Table Tennis Association, and now it is my mandate to lead WTT in order to take table tennis to the forefront of the global sports industry. This is my dream and I believe this is everyone’s dream. Table tennis people are never afraid of hardships and, so as long as we unite all our energies as one, I believe that WTT can lead table tennis to a very bright future indeed.”

Khalil Al-Mohannadi added:

“It is an honour to represent the ITTF Executive Committee on the WTT Board and be able to make good use of my past experience to help push table tennis to the next level. I am confident that WTT will be the key to the global growth of table tennis to make it one of the leading sports in the world, particularly in Africa.”

ATTF President Khaled El-Salhy underlined ATTF’s support for WTT:

“It’s really important that Africa has more detailed information about WTT thanks to this webinar. We are so keen to learn and understand much more about this project, so that we can gain all the possible benefits from WTT in the future. This will provide a boost to all our top players as well as support the promotion of table tennis across the African continent.”

Khaled El-Salhy, alongside ITTF Executive Vice President Dr Alaa Meshref, subsequently welcomed participants onto the webinar, which featured educational presentations held by ITTF CEO & WTT Director Steve Dainton, ITTF Marketing Director & WTT Director Matt Pound, ITTF Secretary General Raul Calin and WTT Event Strategy Director Stephen Duckitt.

Steve Dainton – Why we need WTT

  • No commercial profit under the old business model, but under the new WTT model, the ITTF will receive a guaranteed license fee from WTT, which will be used to help provide more financial support to develop our continents.
  • WTT provides great opportunities to send African talents to train in China alongside the top Chinese players.
  • WTT allows for strategic planning about the kind of events that each part of the world needs to develop new markets and bring more events in. WTT has to consider how to invest wisely to grow more products in Africa.
  • WTT sets out to grow the sport commercially across different parts of the world, especially in Africa, in order to grow the popularity of the sport.

Matt Pound – WTT Key Benefits

WTT provides a professional platform to grow the sport commercially to help players earn a living through increased prize money, inspire the next generation of stars through a new event structure and also provides a more robust content strategy, TV coverage and social media outreach to help develop the sport regionally.

Raul Calin – ITTF Institutional Benefits

The ITTF is making significant progress in terms of governance, as proved by the ASOIF report (rise from 21stto 11th position), but there is still further room for improvement. With WTT taking care of the events and commercialising the sport, the ITTF will be able to focus more on the governance of table tennis and development of the sport globally, especially in regions that need more assistance.

Stephen Duckitt – WTT Events

  • While keeping table tennis at the core of WTT events, WTT will create more opportunities to tell stories and make players the stars of the show.
  • WTT is working with host cities to enable greater fan engagement opportunities and commercial engagement with sponsors to enhance the overall fan experience.
  • WTT is building a truly global footprint to have events spread across the world and create regional stars to build a table tennis legacy.

Whilst COVID-19 has impacted on many operations and events, the use of online technology has enabled WTT and ITTF team members to have multiple one-to-one video conference calls with many stakeholders around the world to go through the detail of the new event structure and to discuss the opportunities for member associations to host events across the different tiers of the new WTT event structure.

Next up there will be a webinar for the players, who are at the core of everything that WTT stands for.

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