by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Member Association Media Officer
Table Tennis Australia (TTA) is one of the most active member associations in the ITTF family, having staged several world class tournaments. In terms of governance, TTA is in the forefront, and this has been demonstrated with the turnaround being experienced in operation and administration as explained by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TTA, Scott Houston.
“TTA has undergone a significant transformation over the past three and half years from a financial, governance, strategic, operational and administrative perspective. This has also provided sponsors with confidence that if they partner with us, we will deliver on the requirements. Additionally, Australia has a large and very supportive Chinese table tennis community, and we are finding that most of our new sponsors come from within the community group.” Scott Houston
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the country has responded.
“In many ways getting back into competitive activity has been straightforward, but in other ways it has been difficult. Australia is currently one of the safest countries in the world from a Covid-19 perspective and right now most Australians are living life in a relatively normal way. However, Australia has been using an eradication approach, rather than a containment approach, which means that even if one of two cases occur then a city might quickly go into lock down. This means that we can plan for competitions with relative confidence, but there is always a risk that not all competitors will be able to play.” Scott Houston
Notably, in recent months new individuals were inducted into TTA Hall of Fame for their immense contribution to the sport.
“The purpose of the TTA Hall of Fame is to recognise outstanding contributions made by individuals to the sport of table tennis. The Hall of Fame started in 1996, however, after 2008 there was a hiatus. Then, in 2019 I put forward a proposal to the TTA Board to re-launch the Hall of Fame, and expand the categories to cover athletes – open, athletes – para, athletes – veterans, coaches, administrators, referees, and umpires.
“In a nutshell, we want to ensure that the people who have significantly contributed at a high level for a long period of time are respected and recognised. This is simply the right thing to do.” Scott Houston
Having staged world class tournaments in the past, Houston is continuing to work hard on raising the bar for the sport in the continent and hopes to see the highest level of table tennis arrive on Australian shores in the not too distant future.
“TTA initially submitted a bid to host the 2023 World Championships, however, the government funding required for the event was eventually not forthcoming. I would love to have a World Championships held in Australia and there is currently a big appetite within Australian sport to bring world level events to Australia in the coming years. There is discussion that the 2032 Olympic Games will be awarded to Australia, if this happens then I am confident there will be a good opportunity to bring a world level table tennis event to Australia in the years prior.” Scott Houston
Being the CEO of TTA comes with its fair share of challenges as admitted by Houston, who highlighted the association’s stark financial transformation over the course of the past four years and holds an ambitious vision for the years ahead.
“When I started as CEO in September 2017, TTA was $649,000 in debt and six weeks away from going bankrupt. I am very pleased to say that after completely remodelling the organisation, we became debt free in February 2021 and we have now established cash reserves. There is a saying of “never waste a good crisis”, and TTA certainly did this. We have been able to promote unification amongst all stakeholders and take the sport to a new level in Australia. However, we want to grow it even further and we have big plans for the future.” Scott Houston