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                    Free Table Tennis 27
                      ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE


Welcome to a new season and the second season of Free Table Tennis. Twenty-six issues in one-year
shows that people want to express their table tennis views, and FTT allows free expression.

As Alex Murdoch starts his sixth year as ETTA Chairman, we look back upon five years of stagnation.
Five years without a major event and disappearance from the National newspapers.

Previous chairmen had to face the possibility of a chairmanship election challenge as an annual event,
but Alex has been the first chairman to have the benefit of starting with a two-year chairmanship term.

We enter another four-year Olympic cycle as we head towards the 2012 London Olympics and,
fortunately, we have major events in the build-up to the Olympics.

The main question is whether we shall still have the local league structure at the grass-roots? So
far, Alex has shown little regard for the grass-roots other than as a source of income despite his
protestations of being a grass-roots person himself.

ETTA Publicity Supremo Jim Beckley is fond of informing every National Council meeting about the
table tennis exposure that has been received. Sadly we have virtually disappeared from the national
newspapers. Locally the reports are provided by the local league and club reporters who are doing a
marvellous job of ensuring that our great sport is recognised locally. Come on Jim, stop taking credit for
the work of others and get us in the national newspapers.

The Olympics were still running as I sat reading about Rebecca Romero winning the women’s
individual pursuit gold in cycling four years after taking a rowing silver medal in Athens. My mind
wandered to people who had changed sports and I wondered which table tennis players could turn to
other sports (e.g. Fred Perry and Ann Jones) when a friend telephoned to say “Andy Baddeley has
finished ninth in the (athletics) 1500 metres final.” Crikey! Hold on, this was not the English National
Champion but some impostor. Never mind, for a moment it was good.

“TABLE TENNIS IS COMING HOME,” said Boris Johnson.

Over recent years, we have been sending players on regular trips to China to train and acclimatise for the
Olympics. So none of our players qualified but we were ready! Look on the bright side, there will be a
financial saving in the players going to train and acclimatise in London for the next four years. This will
provide a huge cultural challenge for the Cleveland contingent but their experience of Chinese
takeaways should hold them in good stead.
                                                   PAGE 2 – 24/09/08

Many of us will have had a busy summer to ensure that the local league runs properly from the start of the winter
league. We were not helped by the intervention of Alex Murdoch’s pronouncement regarding bat coverings and
approved bat rubbers. The ITTF Regulations apply to International Competitions and does apply to the British
League, County Championships and most Open Tournaments BUT NOT the local league. In fact, National
Councillors were informed in July that local leagues could not adopt ‘part of’ the ITTF Regulations. In other
words, to adopt only the part of the Regulations that applies to approved rubbers contravenes the ETTA Laws of
Table Tennis.

Then the situation was complicated even further when the ETTA issued (without warning!) a revised version of the
ETTA Laws of Table Tennis – in this you cannot have a rubber that has been treated so as to change or modify
the playing properties. So those boosters that players have been practising with all summer are now illegal. We
await further details of what these changes actually mean but the season has started in many parts of the country.
We hear that Alex has had a relaxing summer away from the worries and problems of table tennis, even calling on
Barry Meisel at his Costa del Sol club – unfortunately not to talk about sponsorship.

           ALEX DROPS ANOTHER CLANGER (PART 1) - By Brian Halliday
We are back to the dreaded minefield of frictionless rubbers. The ITTF, in their wisdom,
imposed a sanction that has affected thousands of players world-wide. The rights and wrongs
of that decision can be debated ad nauseum - but there is little doubt the ramifications will be
felt for some time to come.

The ITTF advised, that as from 1st July 2008, frictionless rubbers would no longer be “legal”.
The ETTU then had special dispensation to allow the use of frictionless rubbers at the
European Youth Championships in Italy. It is interesting to note that Germany (who have
massive ETTU influence) were quick to ensure that their star performers were able to continue
to use the rubber - and promptly were among the medals. England ignored the relaxation of
the ban.

At the April meeting of the National Council our Chairman announced that he had decided to
recommend to Local Leagues a year’s “cooling off” period. This meant that he gave leagues
the option of NOT enforcing the changes in ITTF authorised rubbers. Alex later confirmed this
in Table Tennis News.

Unfortunately Alex appears to have grabbed the wrong end of the stick.

Let me try to spell this out. Your local league is governed by the ETTA Laws of the game e.g.
you play on a table 9 by 5, the game is 11 up, net 6 inches high etc. These laws are passed at
an AGM of the ITTF.

ITTF Regulations however are ONLY applicable to International Competitions and are
sanctioned by the ITTF Board of Directors. It is under these regulations that the frictionless
ban was imposed. In other words players CAN continue to use frictionless rubbers in local
league play.

Now, based on Alex’s recommendations some leagues have amended their rules at their
AGMs. The outcome of this has been that players have jettisoned their frictionless rubbers,
and have gone out and bought long pimple or smooth rubber alternatives. Alex has dropped a
clanger and is now probably trying to find a loophole to save face.
                                            PAGE 3 – 24/09/08

May I refresh your memory? Please refer to FTT 24 when the glue fiasco at the National
Junior and Cadet Championships in Reading was highlighted.

A procedure was put in place whereby players were only advised that a certain bat would be
tested, AFTER the match was played. This resulted in a number of bat failures - player
disqualifications - reinstatements.

These procedures come under the ITTF regulations and the directive is quite clear. When
BOTH players are at the table it is explained to them BEFORE the match starts that one of
their bats will be tested at the conclusion of the match, taking care not to indicate which one.

The matter was raised at National Council with Management Committee proposing post match
testing only. Fortunately a number of experienced members were able to lead management in
the correct direction, and the ETTA‘s racket testing regulations were quickly withdrawn. It is of
course a worry that on these two very important items your management got it all hopelessly

Howard comments – On the 21/09/08, I looked at the ETTA website under “ETTA Racket
Testing Procedures” and found that the original directive was still displayed. Come on ETTA,
the majority of members look at the ETTA website to find the official information. However five
months after the policy is corrected, the ETTA website is still displaying the wrong information.

FTT Readers will know that Barry Meisel has a weekly table tennis report in Costa del Sol that
can be seen on the Internet at This is quite interesting and includes
English news and views.

Barry had a link to the VETTS website and in return the VETTS website had a link to Barry’s
website – a standard procedure.

However the VETTS committee have decided to delete the link to Barry’s website stating that it
does not associate itself with websites that include advertising.

However there has never been any advertising on Barry’s website and never will.

In response, Barry will not link to the VETTS website so the VETTS will be the bigger loser.
Sorry Alex, yet another bad decision.

The Cheltenham League website has been updated with an improved visual appearance.
Congratulations Cheltenham. You can see it on and you can download Free
Table Tennis on this site. FTT can also be found on
                                                PAGE 4 – 24/09/08

                          Comments upon previous reports
Dear Howard,
I have just finished reading your latest FTT. In answer to Rod Bly’s letter I would like to make it clear
that I had never said that frictionless rubber will help to improve the sport for spectators, only that it
make it a more even playing field against all the new faster and spinier rubber the ITTF are approving.

I have always been of the opinion that the ITTF should never have selected one type of rubber for
banning; there are still many long pimpled rubber sheets on the approved ITTF list. My feeling has
always been the same for the benefit of the sport as a spectacle they should standardize the rubber and
make it all short pimples or reverse rubber with the same thickness of sponge. This would make
the game more skilful, longer rallies and the best player would normally be the winner.

If you go back to the old hard bat rubber days when the players used the same surface, all the top
matches always had sell out crowds for the finals. At present we have a situation where the ITTF are
approving new faster and spinier rubbers, which just makes the game a non-event for the spectator.

Best regards Barry Meisel

Hello Howard,
Thanks for FTT26, which contains a plentiful supply of interesting contributions.

As promised I am pleased to confirm that The Sheffield League, which is the 2nd largest in the
UK, has wisely, in my opinion, chosen to adopt the following proposal.

The bat shall comply with the ETTA law 2.4 and have matt, bright red rubber on one side and
matt black on the other. The rubber on both sides of the blade must be approved by the ITTF
and included in their “Authorised Racket Coverings” list valid 1 July, in the calendar year
preceding the start of the winter season. New products validated by subsequent ITTF
approvals will also be allowed.

The full affect of this change will not be felt until Sept 2009, and despite which, there will still be
approximately 1100 different rubbers to choose from! So, even though the equipment
manufacturers will continue to dictate the way the game is played, it is a step in the right

Although we may not always agree with the decisions of our governing body, those who
choose not to adopt its rules reduce the game to a recreational activity rather than a sport.

Rod Bly

Howard comments – my information (see page 2) is that your league cannot do the above as it alters the
ETTA Laws of Table Tennis. The National Council meeting in July stated that all leagues should be
notified to this effect – however, we are still awaiting this clarification from the ETTA.
                                              PAGE 5 – 24/09/08

Dear Howard,

If FTT did not exist, few would know about recent unfairness in the selections for the European Youth
Championships (which will have been played by the time you read this). Our thanks, Howard, for
giving this injustice the wider publicity it deserves.

Will the “selectors” please tell us how they managed to leave out Emma Vickers and Rachel
Jamieson and substitute girls ranked far lower? Will they also tell us how and why Emma was
selected for the World Senior Team Championships but not the European Youth Championships?
Both can't be right, how can she be deemed good enough for the bigger event, but not the smaller
one? A friend recently told me that selectors made mistakes, but for a real cock-up you need a

Sure enough, since the appointment of Peter Charters, that is what we have got. Never mind that
for twenty years or so we left the selection to a single selector, as indeed do most progressive sports.
That did not stop the ETTA to “go forward into the past”.

I notice that Messrs Hansen and Liu have been getting an awful lot of stick. No doubt, this is well
deserved since they are responsible, as their job titles indicate, for performance and training and the
results of a batch of outstanding youngsters have not matched their undoubted abilities. However,
the headman is Peter Charters, returned to office after an absence of twenty years and it is he who
returned us to the selection system, which brought us the above injustices. The buck should stop
with him.

Serious thought should be given as to his fitness for this “selection”


Dear Critic,

I understand that Peter Charters informed National Council that it was not the first time that a
national champion had not been selected. Quite true, but it must be that first time that the top
seven girls on the rankings were not selected for the junior team in a major tournament.

Charters went to great lengths to underline that the junior girls had improved their position by two
places. However he failed to mention or explain how the junior boys had dropped from first to sixth
position after a year of massive financial investment in the boys; at the expense of the girls.

                                           PAGE 6 – 24/09/08

Dear Howard

I feel I must take issue with your 'Angry Parent' who wrote to FTT regarding the under
11/12/13/14 Tournament (FTT26). The writer states, 'The time-honoured principle that the
comfort of officials is paramount prevailed'.

I am an International Umpire and officiate at approximately 15 to 20 tournaments each season,
so my experience of the treatment of officials is first-hand. No, we are not maltreated but
umpires frequently work from 8:30/09:00 to 20:30/21:00 at tournaments. Our individual rest
time is short. At the previous season's under 11/12/13/14 event umpires worked these very
long hours. In 2007 lunch was adequate but not overly substantial, and a light buffet was
provided in the early evening, however by that time most umpires feel in need of something
more substantial to eat.

On the Saturday (in 2007) I worked from 08:45 to 21:00 and by the time I got back to the hotel
no food was being served and I felt too tired to go out to a restaurant because of the very long
day (my evening meal was a bag of crisps from the bar). The umpires were promised that the
working conditions would be improved for 2008 and indeed they were.

Unfortunately the format of the event was such that the umpires were under-utilised and the
players complained about the 'one through from a group' and the lack of doubles play. I
sympathise with the 'Angry Parent's disappointments but would ask that he or she uses more
thought before making sweeping and totally inaccurate comments about the working
conditions of umpires.

John Mackey
International Umpire

‘Angry Parent’ replies –

The last thing that I want to do is get into arguments with umpires. I know they often get a raw
deal, which is why we have the well publicised “umpire crisis”. In this tournament play stopped
at 6.30 pm which means adequate time remained to play doubles, but more specifically the
players who finished in second place in the groups could have and should have been included
in the main draw.

Parents give up whole weekends and spend a lot of money. They and the players deserve
more consideration too. They did not get it. Other causes were deemed more important.

Howard comments – I think that most people would agree with both ‘Angry Parent’ and John
Mackay. The National Championships should have had more than one player going through
from each group and there should have been doubles events to justify the time and expense of
spending whole weekends attending these tournaments while, at the same time, one
sympathises with the working conditions of the umpires who are doing such a magnificent and
valuable job. The answer lies with the organisers inviting a greater number of umpires to
attend these events thus spreading the workload.

I know that there are numerous people considering ideas for promoting the recruitment of
umpires; but making the job less of a marathon would encourage more people to volunteer.
                                                PAGE 7 – 24/09/08

Hi, Howard

I am not usually so vociferous but after reading the article about the Regional Coach vacancy I felt
compelled to express my annoyance at the vacancy in the North West region. Please find attached an
email I have sent to Alex Murdoch about it.

Regards, Sylvia Graham, Secretary Merseyside Schools Table Tennis Association

Dear Alex,

Once again I find myself contacting you when I hear news that upsets/angers me and this time it is in
relation to the post of Regional Coach for the NorthWest. I believe that three applicants were
interviewed (Andrea Holt, Kevin Dolder and Katy Parker) and that Katy Parker was successful.

It is interesting that the post should attract so many applicants but a credit to the area that all three
interviewed did come from the North West. However the most puzzling thing to me is that the successful
applicant would appear to be the least qualified and as far as I am aware, has shown little interest in the
development of table tennis in the NorthWest in either clubs or schools and I have not heard or seen her
name mentioned as an active coach in magazines/websites/tournaments etc. Both the other applicants
are active, respected and well-known coaches in the area who have built up their reputations with hard

In addition Andrea Holt would appear to surpass Katy Parker in all the requirements for the post.

She has:
           The experience in coaching
           Academically she has a degree with 1st class honours
           As a player she has been National Champion and represented England
           Shows an interest in the NorthWest and table tennis throughout the region
           Has worked hard as the NorthWest Development Officer and has built up contacts and
           relationships with clubs and leagues
           Promoted ETTA valued behaviours
           Promoted PremierClub links
           Is used to giving presentations to schools, clubs, committees

 I feel a great injustice has been done when a candidate with the Andrea's experience is passed over for
a job when in reality most employers would have rubberstamped her for the NorthWest Regional
Coaching post and then advertised the NorthWest Regional Development Officer post.

Yours sincerely, Sylvia Graham

Dear Sylvia
FTT shares your sense of injustice. Two members of the 3-person selection committee were imported
from outside the area and so the choice was imposed upon local people regardless of the availability of
two better candidates that we know of. We fear that more than mere incompetence was in play.
                                                PAGE 8 – 24/09/08

Grass roots write .......

Dear Howard

I must take issue with you over your comments about “silly” bats and their effect on social players. If
the social players to which you refer had met players who knew how to produce a heavily back spun, top
spun ball or one containing sidespin they would have been equally bewildered.

I can recall one of your regular correspondents David Humble dismissing this criticism of “funny”
rubbers and stating that it would take him very little time to explain what to do against these rubbers and
as a user of frictionless rubber and as a coach before my enforced retirement through a bad foot injury I
entirely agree. The reason these rubbers came into vogue was in an attempt to establish a level playing
field and give defenders some sort of chance against the biff bang boys.

However, I must take issue with David over his defence of the management against the rational criticism
of certain aspects of the administration by writers such as Brian Halliday. For us to go so long without a
major international event in this country that would attract much needed TV and Press coverage is
terrible. How can this situation help to encourage greater participation in table tennis?

There is no doubt that Free Table Tennis is proving to be an invaluable vehicle in highlighting the
widespread discontent in the country over the state of our sport. Clearly there are no easy answers to the
problems but there is little doubt that we are suffering from a huge lack of publicity. Perhaps more
tournaments with big prize money as proposed by Barry Meisel would be a step in the right direction.
Certainly, so long without an international tournament has not helped the situation.

Keep up the good work.

Ron Etheridge

Dear Ron,

I have no problem with players who use their skill in producing spin shots to beat opponents. My
problem lies with players who use ‘silly bats’ such that the same stroke produces the opposite effect
from one side of the bat to when the other side of the bat is employed.

The better players can understand what is going on. Consider two ‘social players’ with ‘silly bats’,
neither knows what they are doing hence they will quickly lose interest never to return. Even a social
player can appreciate being beaten by a player with superior spin technique and could be encouraged to
try and improve their skill standard, but tend to easily capitulate when faced with a ‘silly bat’ player.

I am just speaking from my experience. Your experience may be different.


                          If all generalisations are false, is this one true?

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