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Free Table Tennis 35
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE
ENGLISH TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION?
We are entering the period when most local leagues and county associations are having their
Annual General Meetings. The majority of these meetings will attract only a small proportion of
the membership and, in many cases; the views expressed may not represent the majority of the
I suspect that the quorum for the league AGMs has not altered since the league started despite
the fact that the composition of the league has altered. When I started playing, the majority of
clubs had only one team so a quorum requirement of one member per club was logical.
Despite the fact that the number of teams in the league is similar, the number of clubs has
dropped dramatically because of the number of large multi-team clubs YET the quorum remains
as one member per club.
The consequence is a large drop in the number of people attending the AGM. The result of this
is that one club can force through changes by persuading a large attendance from that one club.
I have already heard that one league fears that their AGM will be hijacked by the above method,
and are taking steps to redress the balance but how many clubs will take the opportunity to
quietly take actions to ensure that the AGM makes a decision in their favour.
I hear of one club who compete in two different leagues will attempt to ensure that one of the
leagues do not insist upon a “no match postponement” being introduced in one of those leagues.
At the present time, their home-town league do not allow postponements so when there is a
clash of fixtures, their match in the second league gets postponed causing problems for the
teams and clubs in that league. I have no problem with players playing in a second league, but
they should not expect special privileges.
The solution is for all clubs to ensure that they are fully represented at their Annual General
Meeting, and additionally the local leagues are advised to update their Rules regarding quorums
at Annual General Meetings.
Question: How many leagues require only a majority vote to change their league rules and how
many require two-thirds or three-quarter majority votes?
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My next point is county association annual general meetings. The attendance at these is often
pathetic. My own county has only attracted members of the county committee for the past three
seasons – where were the rest of the county members? People have explained to me that they
do not know the date and venue of the meeting but, if they do, then the venue is too far away, or
they have one thousand and one other excuses for their non-attendance.
People whose only involvement is picking up their bat and playing once a week dominate our
sport. Come on, ladies and gentlemen, if you want out sport to prosper then you need to be less
selfish, get involved, and put something back into our great Sport.
My local cricket club has a policy that players who do not help with the ground preparation do not
get selected for the matches! If my table tennis club had a similar policy, then we would struggle
to raise a team.
England in Decline?
An Assessment - By Brian Halliday
I was tempted to start these notes with the following: A “jolly good time was had by all”. This
concerns the recent trip to Japan for the World Championships. Perhaps that is unkind, but one
does wonder if the entire trip was in fact one long “jolly”.
The English results were very much as expected. A string of defeats yet again. Our No. 1
player did pretty well to lead Primorac 3-0, and then lost the next 4. OK so Primorac is still a
world-class exponent but he is 39 years old and with all due respect is way past his best. I
recall Gareth Herbert taking this player very close some years ago at the Worlds when
Primorac was a far better player than now.. I don’t blame Drinkhall. He can only play to the
best of his ability. It is just that it is an ongoing embarrassment that after all the efforts in time
and money that are thrown at our players, we still are unable to produce any worthwhile results.
Our masters will come up with all the usual spin about how it was all down to bad luck or bad
draws, and how we are showing promise for 2012. Do me a favour. We stand no chance
unless we change the whole way we approach the sport. Please is there anyone out there
who cares? Wont the Management understand that unless there is change we will continue to
limp along with the rest of the also rans. I know we will be told that the rest of Europe is in the
same boat and that the all-conquering Chinese are way out of sight, but it does not have to be
like that. A number of the “names” that head up our elite coaching structure should go now
and should be replaced by more dynamic personnel - I could make suggestions as to who
could make up a new “Think Tank”.
Let us give credit where credit is due, Drinkhall is a very exciting prospect - at the moment no
more no less. I attended the recent “Masters” at the Royal Albert Hall where Drinkhall was
involved in a shambolic match with Darius Knight but then played a really decent match to be
beat the ex World Champion, Jorgen Persson. Although Persson was suffering from an injury
this was a truly awesome effort from Paul who richly deserved his victory over a gracious
opponent. Paul then lost to Samsonov, which was no disgrace whatsoever.
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My point is that we have Drinkhall and very very little else. Hundreds of thousands of pounds
have been thrown at a system, which has been trying to come up with decent players. The
system has failed. We are blinded by the sight of players crashing the ball at each other around
the tournament circuit and losing sight of the fact that standards are only on the boundary of
world class. European standards are leaving us behind (there are at least two cracking
German players that have yet to appear who would give any of our top players a run for their
Now a few moans about what on earth is going on at Sheffield. I know I will be accused of not
going to Sheffield and therefore not knowing what is going on at first hand. Nevertheless I have
a few questions that require answers and once again they concern our women players (who
continue to get a rough deal). Let us look at the case of Emma Vickers. One of England’s
better players who finds it nigh on impossible to get to Sheffield due to college commitments.
She continues to play at Draycott against players of a better standard than she would meet at
the EIS and thereby saving in the region of £3000 a year.
I hear that that very fine prospect Emily Bates has to make a long round trip, which costs a lot of
money, and is tiring and time consuming. The trio is completed by Martha Travis who although
low down on the senior list, made her England debut and has now returned home from her
residence in Sheffield. I have it on certain authority that the conjunction of the ETTA and the
BTTF has just not got their act together.
It is a fact that the women’s game is at an all time low. The fact that only 4 out of 21 players who
entered the National Under 21 event were NOT juniors and that in the National Senior event
only 11 out of 34 were seniors. In the junior ranks there is little incentive to improve, as there is
no prospect of playing for England, as they are not in the elite mini group at the EIS. If you can’t
get to Sheffield during the week you can’t play. Where is the sense in all this?
Players and parents are commenting that the standard at Junior 4* events is in decline. The
ETTA/BTTF needs a reality check. Maybe they should give some thought as to how Matthew
Syed managed a University education and still became a three times Commonwealth
I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I do have a few ideas. More next time.
Howard comments – Do you agree with Brian? FTT would be pleased to hear your opinion.
The major event of six years of Alex Murdoch chairmanship has been The Dunlop Masters, an
event NOT organised by the English Table Tennis Association!
Barry Meisel gives his verdict …..
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THE DUNLOP MASTERS - ROYAL ALBERT HALL , LONDON 7 MAY, 2009
THIS WAS THE WRONG PLACE, THE WRONG TIME
AND THE WRONG DATE. By Barry Meisel
This tournament was held in the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, and shown live for three and a
half hours on Sky Sports TV, to 40 countries worldwide. It was immediately noticeable that the
venue was barely half full, and mainly consisted of children with parents and grand parents, with
very few top grade table tennis players present.
The first match between England's Paul Drinkhall and Darius Knight was less than what can be
considered as international standard, with Paul winning by 3 games to 1.
The second match between Jean Michel Saive of Belgium and Chen Weixing of Austria,
became an exhibition of high lob returns and hitting, which seemed to amuse the less-savvy
audience, but not the experienced table tennis players, the result being that Jean Michel Saive
won by the narrowest of margins in the fifth and final game. Most accomplished players
understand that if an opponent in a serious match continues to produce high lob returns, he will
likely lose his shirt, as was the case in this instance!
The third match between Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and Jean Michel Saive of Belgium,
again turned out to be exhibition table tennis, with Samsonov being the eventual winner.
The third match between Jorgen Perrson of Sweden and Paul Drinkhall of England was a
scrappy game with Jorgen looking as though he was suffering from a case of bad jet lag, from
the journey back from the world championships in Japan. Paul came out a 3 games to 1 winner,
but Jorgen played far less than his normal world class standard.
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The final match was a comfortable win for Vladimir Samsonov, even though he performed less
than par, and he defeated Paul Drinkhall by 3 games to 1.
Overall, this event turned out to be a spectacular exhibition for the young players and their
parents, but was by no means a serious international table tennis championship. The event
was more suitable to being held in a school, college or a sports centre, but not the famous
Royal Albert Hall. Commentary of the event was less than average, (but perhaps appropriate for
the young audience), and the level of play was far from what “real players” consider top
The problem was perhaps as the result of the fact that promoters did not take into consideration
that for high performance, top international players should not be scheduled to compete just a
few days after a very long 13-hour journey immediately after the World Championships in
However, in support of the event, the young audience and their parents seemed to enjoy
themselves, and the sport is in dire need of younger players. Proceeds went to charity, and the
audience average age of about 12 was friendly enjoying their sweets and ice cream without any
security necessary. Also it was good not to see any former old footballers making a fool of
themselves as they did last year.
In summary, the idea was admirable, but an advertised international table tennis event at the
Royal Albert Hall deserves better if sold out events of the past are to be duplicated. Please let’s
get more professional about our events if we are to showcase professional players, and let’s
have no more “Dun-Flop” Masters.
John Prean responds to John Birkin
Although mentioned by Reader Birkin, I had not intended to reply to him.
His contributions are not without style, but they lack substance. His main theme, that
Alex Murdoch is an adequate chairman lacks any supporting evidence.
Like most of us, Alan Ransome may have made mistakes in his time, but he has a record of
substantial achievement, not least in my time when he was an outstanding Vice-chairman of
Marketing and many fine events took place all over the country. As Brian Halliday has shown,
that record continued when he succeeded me as Chairman of the ETTA. The sport's image was
much higher than it is now after the long period of inactivity and irrelevance of the last six years.
Like Mr Birkin, I have had thoughts of bringing the "warring" parties together, so that they could
work for the common cause of putting table tennis back on the map.
Further thought led to the inevitable conclusion: What does Alex Murdoch have to offer in such a
partnership? After six years I am still waiting for the answer. "Doing little" may avoid mistakes in
general, but not the biggest of all, that of seeing the sport in a freefall of decline.
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WHY I SUPPORTED ALAN AGANST ALEX writes John Prean
Since I decided to support Alan Ransome against Alex Murdoch in the recent ETTA chairman
elections, many have expressed their surprise. Some said reproachfully that I had done much to
persuade them to vote for Alex in 2003. Alex was then virtually unknown outside veteran circles,
my differences with Alan were well publicised and had lasted some years.
So it was not easy to make my decision. It is never easy to accept one had been wrong, but,
when the time came, I chose the wrong man. I could not know this at the time, as he produced a
generally good manifesto. Mo one could know how meaningless this was to prove. Readers of
FTT will have seen the articles that exposed the manifesto as completely bogus, soon forgotten.
It would be easy enough to say that the broken promises and the "do little" philosophy had
convinced me and, of course, they have.
There was, however, another aspect of this new administration that profoundly disappointed and
disillusioned me and that was that such important principles like democracy and freedom of
expression meant so little to them. I refer to “Table Tennis News” our own Magazine, once a
veritable treasure, full of debate and controversy within the sport often featuring people who
really cared about the sport rather than “high office” or a place on the top table achieved via long
record of flattery and subservience. There was complete freedom of speech. Now the Magazine
is the servant of chairman and management committee. People who think the sport is run less
perfectly than it deserves to a have long ago been wiped off the pages. The editor is a member
of staff who will not be expected to criticise his employers.
I myself arrived in this country as a little boy and refugee from Hitler. My father had once written
a satirical article about Hitler and the German “war hero” General Ludendorf after they
participated in their first rebellion (“putsch”) against the weak German State. This was defeated
quite ignominiously and both worthies ended prostrate in the gutter pretending to be dead to
avoid being shot, as the government forces closed in on them. It earned for my father a place on
Hitler's death list, although he was not to come to power for ten more years. Most of my family
were eventually done to death.
For me, however, to leave my native Austria was an immediate blessing. At a very early age I
decided that England was the place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. What I liked
most of all was the relaxed and free way in which people were able to express their thoughts. I
had grown up in a restricted, Fascist country in which suppression reigned supreme. Austria's
Fascism was not as extreme as that of Hitler's Germany. It was, as was often said, rendered
more bearable by native inefficiency, but it fell a ready victim, to Hitler when he invaded, finding
no resistance from the small neighbour.
I did not come into English Table Tennis till I neared my forties, but again I felt immediately
comfortable. I loved the local league as it then was and as I got better and worked my way
through the divisions and into our Inter-League and Veterans County Team, I naturally began to
take an interest in national affairs and became an enthusiastic reader of Table Tennis News.
The very things, which I had once liked so much about, the country again attracted me. There
was total freedom of expression and members seemed to care about the sport and the future. I
became a regular contributor. It was never one of my ambitions to criticise for criticism's sake. I
always sought to make useful suggestions. Some of these were pooh-poohed and then accepted
as someone else's idea. I did not mind that. I tried to attack general policies, not individuals, who
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often sought to emerge as martyrs when I had never even mentioned them by name. However,
the editor George Yates, who was also deputy chairman of the ETTA, resisted all pressures, as
he saw freedom of expression as supreme.
The printing quality of the official Magazine may have improved, but the contents have not and
the main reason is that freedom of expression has been eliminated. I have no idea how this
policy came about and how it came to be accepted. For what it is worth, THIS was for me the
deciding moment when I decided that things must change, that a chairman, under whom such
things were allowed to happen, would have to go. From such beginnings it was not hard to see
how things had deteriorated, how we had sunk in a "do little" culture, hypocritically accompanied
by much boasting, which sought to turn failures into successes, mediocrity into excellence.
It followed that Alan Ransome was the better man. He is the only one who has come forward to
do the job, which Alex has done so badly. He has the ability to promote the sport, so that it
rises from the current deathbed and returns into the public arena, so that our fellow citizens are
again aware of our existence.
Comments upon previous reports
„Critic‟ writes “Alex - The Beginning of the End”
Brief as it was, I enjoyed the election campaigns. At last there was a choice: The sterile period of
non-elections had ended.
I think the " victory of Alex Murdoch will prove a Pyrrhic one. I think next time he will lose, as
indeed he deserves to. His time has been one of inaction as well as inactivity, the title of " Dr Do
Little " well deserved. Last time he won by a wide margin. This time he scraped home. If twenty
smallish leagues had voted the other way, he would have lost. If you add the ones who voted
against him and those who did not vote at all, Alex would have lost. The abstentions are
particularly devastating. They had seen him in action for six years and yet could not be bothered
to use the two minutes needed to fill in the forms.
My surprise remains that he should have been re-elected at all. From the very beginning he has
surrounded himself with old friends from the Veterans Society, people with little experience at
national level, but people he felt comfortable with. The outcome was too predictable. Little
happened. Even the opportunity of staging the English Open was ignored. There seemed
general indifference to the chance of pitting the sport on the wider national map. Staff numbers
seemed to triple or more, yet less seemed to be happening, at any rate things that could be
noticed as advancing the sport.
There was even the extraordinary boast about having £400.000 in the bank and comparisons
were invited with the Prean/Ransome era of 1991 when a similar amount was in the ETTA bank
account. The inconvenient difference was that such a sum (due to inflation) was then worth a lot
more, but mainly that it was money that had been earned for the sport through sponsorship and
notable promotions such as the Chinese Tours as well as visits from the national teams of
Sweden, France and Russia. Dare one say it, the English Open also took place every year.
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The £400,000 "earned" Alex and his team arrived via a different route, one of almost total
inactivity. If you spend nothing on the sport, money will accumulate in today's circumstances.
These are that a free-spending government, also devoted to high taxes, has poured vast
amounts into sport, mainly the governing bodies such as the ETTA, with vast income assured, it
follows that what is not spent will remain in the bank. No notable sponsorship, no big events
needed to be generated to create the implied wealth. Inactivity was rewarded. I am not
Alex, in his regular and similar articles, often boasts about the wonderful sums that have come
our way. He tends to attribute these to the equally wonderful admiration among the sporting
quangos for the way we do things. In fact, in relative terms our handouts are small. We are rated
with the likes of Handball and Synchronised Swimming.
Alex’s second theme is the success of our junior players (male). It is not explained why female
players, getting the same ETTA "support" have produced no junior medals. We can help Alex
there. They have suffered, most of the time, from quite stunning neglect. To that one can add
unfairness. No further time need be wasted on the selection of the No.94 ranked player at No.3
in the England team. It is not known what the happy bunch ("management committee") did about
it. Did they just sit there; did they ask what it was all about? Peter Charters, a member, tells us it
was the idea of sole selector Steen who will be judged in 2012. I mention the incident again
because it shows how much chaos can be caused just be doing nothing. Inactivity is not always
the safe option.
We spend absolute fortune on our national team these days. Our most notable success has
been to see our top player at No.124 on the world-ranking list, a feat that has not excited TV or
Press and, to be honest, our members. What does it say for our support staff, not merely Steen,
if an outstanding talent, also European Youth Champion is so meagrely assessed? Again, the
happy band seems to sit there in silence. Even I was surprised to hear how those who have
contact with him regard Alex.
A well-known figure who switched his allegiance to Alan Ransome said: “He will always let you
down" Players, parents tell me exactly what John Prean has reported: "He never does anything.
It is not that he does not understand what one tells him: He just does not want to know.” Yet
when you read his articles, he claims that all he wants is to be of service to members….”I was
one of many who voted for Alex in 2003, but today or in 2011, I see Alan as the only choice. It is
true he has made mistakes, but it is time to forget and forgive and to go for the one with vision
and ambition, who brought us the World Championships. Again, it was not a perfect event, but at
least he tried and brought the publicity the sport needs.
There is time for remaining problems to be ironed out and that includes the commercial conflicts
that might arise. There is also time for a long debate about the future of the game. It is
inconceivable that members will ever vote for Alex again. It would be like saying: “The sport has
no future. Lethargy is good.”
I refuse to believe that this is the future.