17 Jul 2021

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Executive Committee (EC) has promoted Steve Dainton to the position of ITTF Group CEO in recognition of the work done over the last four years in the position as ITTF CEO.

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Executive Committee (EC) has promoted Steve Dainton to the position of ITTF Group CEO in recognition of the work done over the last four years in the position as ITTF CEO.

Dainton is now tasked with leading all three entities under the ITTF Group umbrella – the ITTF, which is the international governing body of Table Tennis, the ITTF Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the ITTF, and World Table Tennis (WTT), the commercial and event business of the ITTF.

Focus on business development

Following the ITTF 2017 AGM, the new EC appointed Dainton as CEO. Since then, the ITTF started a transformation into a modern organisation, which included a series of historic milestones, the most significant being the development of the first-ever ITTF Strategic Plan, approved at the 2018 ITTF Annual General Meeting held in Halmstad, Sweden.

One of the areas where the role of Steve Dainton has been more determinant has been business development. If in 2011 the ITTF marketing income was approximately 5.4 million USD, 5 years after, in 2016, it had experienced a modest increase of around 28%, reaching 6.9 million USD.

Steve Dainton took office in August 2017, however being already in charge of marketing and commercial activities since the termination of the TMS International at the end of 2016. The figures speak by themselves: at the virtual AGM held in September 2020, the ITTF reported a record income of over 16 million USD, what meant an increase of 130% of the ITTF income, compared to the modest 28% increase experienced from 2011 to 2016. Five times bigger growth in almost half of the time.

Attention to Social Responsibility and to the Membership

But it has not been all about commercial growth. Together with the Strategic Plan, at Halmstad AGM, Dainton did bring the idea of the ITTF Foundation as the new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of the ITTF, distinguishing since then what is the development of table tennis (ITTF High Performance and Development) from what is using table tennis as a tool for development (CSR – ITTF Foundation), and in 2019, the Membership Relations was created, aiming to ensure a closer relation and dialogue with the 226 ITTF member associations.

The area of staff has also developed, moving from around 25-30 staff to over 70 in a period of four years. This has included the establishment of the first ever ITTF Equipment Office in Cologne, Germany, providing a more professional service to the table tennis equipment manufacturers.

Ping Pong Diplomacy

Besides the transformation of the ITTF, the Unified Korea Team at the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) is a moment everyone remembers. Dainton’s determination for this united team to happen led to hectic negotiations literally overnight, and with the agreement of the representatives of both Associations and their respective Governments, and the endorsement of the ITTF Board of Directors, it became an historical moment thanks to the brave initiative of ITTF’s CEO.

World Table Tennis

Just before the world being hit by the pandemic, the ITTF embarked in its bigger ever transformation: the creation of World Table Tennis (WTT), the new entity responsible for managing ITTF’s events and commercial business.

On the base of the Strategic Plan adopted one year earlier, Steve Dainton and Matt Pound conceptualised WTT working very closely with the EC, which appointed Thomas Weikert, Khalil Al-Mohannadi and Petra Sörling as the representatives on the so called selection panel which led the negotiations in 2019.

Endless discussions, presentations, negotiations and analysis led to an historic transformation that aims to place table tennis among the top sports of the world and which first glimpses could be seen in Macao in 2020 and in Qatar in 2021.

“After three years of initial growth based around our first-ever strategic plan and then managing throughout the crisis, the past 18 months has been hugely exciting and quite often positively challenging. To continue the journey is an honour. Ensuring everything we do is in the best interest of table tennis is something that I will continue to passionately pursue”.

“Our sport has so much potential and on the global level can continue post-COVID-19 to grow exponentially, its especially important that we continue to find ways to increase the prize money for our players, which has been the main drive of our commercial approach. I wholeheartedly believe we are still only just scratching the surface and with a united approach our sport can be truly one of the biggest in the world,” said Dainton.

The Executive Committee stated: “The new contract of Steve Dainton as Group CEO is a rolling contract. Not only this defines more properly his new role, overseeing all three entities, but also it confirms ITTF’s transformation into a modern organisation, in which the employment contracts should not be conditioned by the politics.

Dainton’s appointment takes place with immediate effect.