PAGE 1 – 06/10/07 Free Table Tennis 6 ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE ENGLISH TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION? firstname.lastname@example.org O-O-O-O–O Table tennis people express their personal opinions in Free Table Tennis and not those of a collection of people. We do not solicit contributions from clubs, leagues or county associations because we do not believe that there will be 100% agreement within any of those bodies. We understand that the ETTA Chairman and Deputy Chairman have both complained to the Berkshire County Association regarding the comments of their National Councillor. We understand that Berkshire gave their Councillor their unanimous support. Free Table Tennis believes in Freedom of Speech and everyone‟s right to say what they believe. We congratulate Berkshire. We recall the days when Table Tennis News used to have a column called “Controversy”. Now words of dissent are never seen in that magazine. More is the pity! O-O-O-O–O The topic to be discussed is clearly shown in Free Table Tennis issues: “Are you happy with the English Table Tennis Association?” It is a little disappointing that the few who seem broadly happy should not say this, but instead criticise the views of other readers. It is not the critics who have brought English Table Tennis to its present crisis. It may be that the greatest criticism of all that one can direct at the ETTA is the very absence of any criticism whatever (as shown by the official magazine Table Tennis News). One point of the democratic system is the free exchange of views and ideas in the hope that the better ones will prevail for the common good. In the current stultifying climate, there are no ideas, new or old, other than what emerges from a tight knit circle in power. Free Table Tennis seeks to give a voice to those present rulers have excluded and disenfranchised. Painful as this may be for the governing few, the long-term effects can only be good. One can already see refreshing voices and thoughts. One hopes that these will not be greeted by personal attacks or distorted reminiscences. It is obvious to most that current ETTA management is not good enough, that fundamental changes are needed, if the sport’s rapid downhill descent is to be halted. PAGE 2 – 06/10/07 Congratulations on the first four editions of Free Table Tennis. At last there is free and intelligent debate about the future of our sport. Such has been missing for so long. My own experience indicates that there is widespread disappointment with the progress of our sport in recent years and current ETTA management is blamed. This is particularly disappointing for me, because I worked hard for Alex Murdoch‟s election. Contrary to what was implied by a couple of critical contributors, I have no ambition to return as Chairman of the ETTA. I sought election twenty years ago, because the sport had given my family and me a great deal, as players and volunteers; many happy years in local table tennis. I wanted to put something back. I gave the Association more than four years of full- time work for which I did not get or ask a penny. It was a time of substantial achievement; fine national teams, memorable high-class international matches all over the country, vastly increased national press coverage, considerably more television. The very success of my Team produced some bitterness among those who had predicted only failure and such sentiments have survived to this day, often embroidered by inventions and lies. I am as entitled as the next man to express my views and I feel I have earned the right to be heard and I want the sport to have a great future. However, the years I served are more than enough for me and the last thing I want to do is to spend the autumn of my life in a post I left so many years ago. Of course, my experience and possible expertise are available to those who find these helpful. I shall feel free to express my views as a citizen of a democratic country. John Prean O-O-O-O–O A recent ETTA website item dealt with the “6 Nations International Championships” played on the Isle of Man. Despite the grand sounding title, it is a very minor low key offering which takes the place these days of previous block busters like the World Championships, European Championships, English Opens, Test matches against China, Euro-Asia contest, all of which one could see in this country not so long ago. However, there was some new ground in one sense. The English players were recruited from the twilight zone, the 18 to 39 age group, which has virtually disappeared due to the ETTA “youth policy”, as a result of which we no longer have a senior team that can contest international events effectively or plausibly. However, this time England did well, not only beating Guernsey and the Isle of Man, but also Wales (without Robertson & Ryan Jenkins) and Scotland (without the injured Rumgay). The “write-up” was done by Tim Yarnall, who thus did well on both table and with the pen in another „Information Officer Free-Zone‟. Thus the success was duly commemorated to go with the recent junior triumphs in El Salvador and Madeira. FTT comments – Did we not abandon the Home Quadrangular because Ireland, Scotland and Wales were not strong-enough opposition? So we add the mighty nations of Guernsey and the Isle of Man and we have the 6 Nations International. Seriously both Guernsey and the Isle of Man staged the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships before we did. PAGE 3 – 06/10/07 O-O-O-O–O Brian Halliday writes INTERNATIONAL EVENTS AND TV My previous notes to you touched on lack of high profile events over the last four years. Table Tennis seasons slip by very quickly and it easy to forget that our membership has been denied the chance to see the very best players in action. I thought it might be an interesting exercise to compare the records under the Alan Ransome regime, which covered the period from 1991 - 92 season to 2002-03 with those under Alex Murdoch from 2003 - 04 season to the present time. The statistics seem to speak for themselves. 1991-92 English Open (Birmingham) 7 match China Tour and Japan Tour (Men and Women) 1992-93 English Junior Open (Bridlington) 1993-94 European Championships (Birmingham) 1994-95 English Open (Cleveland), Chinese Tour 1995-96 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Manchester) English Open (Kettering), English Junior Open (Bridlington) 1996-97 World Championships (Manchester), English Open (Kettering) 1998-99 World Veterans Championships (Manchester), English Open (Potters) 1999-00 --- 2000-01 English Open (Chatham) 2001-02 Commonwealth Masters (Wembley) 2002-03 Commonwealth Games (Manchester) Continental Masters (Wembley) 2003-04 --- Continental Masters (Sheffield) 2004-05 --- Commonwealth Masters (Croydon) 2005-06 --- Commonwealth Masters (Croydon) 2006-07 --- There have been no men’s international matches held in England in the last two years, in fact this has been the weakest period in our history for International events on English soil. Matt Syed has been the dynamic presence behind a number of “invitation” events. (Continental Masters and Commonwealth Masters). He received massive assistance both from the professional staff at Hastings and volunteers, but the fact remains that if it hadn‟t been for Matt the last four years would have been totally barren. He is in the course of organising a similar event at the Royal Albert Hall in March 2008. There is no doubt that these events are brilliantly produced and very well received, both by the public and the sponsors, but they are not “Open” and would not take place without his initiative. The ETTA have promised us an English Open in 2008-09. TV coverage is a subject that is always being discussed wherever the sport is played. Recently Eurosport and Sky have done their bit with transmissions from the Olympics, Worlds, and Europeans. In the 90s the ETTA arranged with Sky to cover Pro Tour events but now input has been limited to say the least, in fact in 2007 it has been nil. It is not easy to get coverage. It takes many one to one sessions with the companies and producers to gain any sort of foothold. The seeds sown in the mid 1990s resulted in massive TV coverage of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. Where are we now? PAGE 4 – 06/10/07 O–O–O–O–O ALEX MURDOCH ELECTION MANIFESTO REVISITED (PART 7) FTT has just learned that Paul Drinkhall, the outstanding English player of recent years, the youngest English Champion since Chester Barnes, has signed for the German Bundesliga Club Gönneren, which means that he is lost to the British League, our own “prestige event.” We re-visit Alex Murdoch’s manifesto of four years ago: “Do our top players participate in the British League which should be one of our most prestigious competitions? No, they do not. With the Prize Fund less than it was 20 years ago they have no incentive. What happens to the massive profits the British League makes?” One assumed that, after all the criticism, some action would be seen. We detect little. Our top player has gone to Germany rather than play in our own “prestigious” event. Alex continues: “As mentioned before, millions of pounds have been spent on the World Class Performance and Development Programmes. Has this achieved the improvements in our teams’ international status and are more people playing the sport? The answer is no – the opposite has happened.” Yes, we can see why we voted for Alex and why, now, after fours years, we are so disappointed. The policies, at any rate their consequences, which he attacked so enthusiastically, have been continued by him. English players still cannot earn a living in England. Such income as they may get comes from funds via government sporting quangos or sponsorship. Only peanuts can be earned by actually playing, at any rate here. When Desmond Douglas and Carl Prean decided to play in Germany, the ETTA had only just survived a massive financial crisis. Even then players received “units” based on their perceived status and the number of days on which they were on England duty. It was not very much, but at least it showed some willingness and it made enough of a difference to keep good players in the game and there was every intention in those days to expand the scheme in the interest of professional players and attitudes. One cannot blame Alex for all that happened or did not happen. Much transpired before his time. Where he has let us down was first in seeing the problem so clearly and then doing nothing about them and, sadly, that is the story of his chairmanship. There is money to be earned in English table tennis, but much goes to two middle – aged coaches, little to the players, not even an outstanding talent like Drinkhall. The system is not only unfair, it is stupid. We are paying the price in the departure of yet another bright talent, one that will rarely light up our scene from now on. PAGE 5 – 06/10/07 With Drinkhall gone, what will the highly paid coaches do? Paul will, we assume, be coached in Germany. We do not, at the time of writing, know the results of Drinkhall’s first matches in Germany. Time will show how well he was prepared, whether the El Salvador Junior Open was a suitable preparation for the rigours of the German Bundesliga. There so many of the world’s best players may still be found. We shall find out how well the over-emphasis on Junior Events, often quite minor ones, prepared him for the senior game and after that we shall know whether we have had value for money for the millions donated to us and spent. It may, of course, be that with the greatest asset gone, there will at last be some attention for the “lesser lights”. Who knows, even our junior girls may get rather better treatment, which would get them away from 29th place in Europe. With all due credit to Peter Charters’ development camps, the cadets, too, might now see the coaching big boys. All that assumes that everything will go on as before, that no lessons have been learned from the Drinkhall departure. Other very good players remain here, but for how long? Only the coaches, who got us where we are, will remain. They, at any rate, seem permanent, whilst the cream of our young talent disappears. Another fine mess? LATEST NEWS: 11 further top players have departed for foreign leagues. We note your concern 4 years ago, Alex, but what are you doing now? Germany - Bradley Evans, Gavin Evans, Helen Lower, Joanna Parker, France – Darius Knight, Kelly Sibley Denmark – Danny Reed, Sweden – Natalie Bawden, Matthew Ware Switzerland – Alan Cooke, Tim Yarnall ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR JUNIOR GIRLS The above list highlights another problem for our leading junior girls – who do they play against? With the leading seniors disappearing abroad, it leaves the juniors competing against each other in both the junior and senior tournaments. If they do not play, then that leaves the next tier of up-and-coming juniors with a vacuum. Wake up, this is a major problem with long-term potential damage to our national teams. PAGE 6 – 06/10/07 O–O–O–O–O Howard I wondered if you could add me to your mailing list for FTT, it was passed onto me for the first time today and was an interesting read... As an ex-editor of Scimitar, the Essex Table Tennis Magazine, a magazine that ran from the 70s with intermittent stops as editors came and went, it was an underlying memory of my junior days in table tennis, waiting quarterly for Scimitar to drop through the door, a packed A5 mono publication with a write up from every league in Essex, about the county side with our heroes of Essex, Chester Barnes, Stuart Gibbs, Dave Newman, Les Eadie and Kenny Jackson. Coached at Brentwood TTC initially by Stuart Gibbs and then by two guys who changed all of our lives at Brentwood TTC and made life long friends, Mark Sweeting and Malcolm Cole, table tennis from the age of 12 has become an integral part of my life, now aged 42 and a vet, Scimitar is no more, despite all efforts no-one wanted to write anything anymore, or were prepared to pay for it, it stopped. As a graphic designer for a living I bore the brunt of printing etc etc, delivery, envelops etc etc. Basically I think that Table Tennis Magazines NEED a table tennis players input, whether it be in grass roots or at the highest level and Table Tennis News, I would imagine, is going down the same route as Scimitar did for me, no one wants to write an 'interesting' story anymore. I had some fabulous stories including one of an Essex girl, Hilary Low (nee Finch) who married a New Zealand table tennis coach Pat Low and went on to become an integral part of the New Zealand National Team in the 1995 Singapore Commonwealth Games and then on to Tianjin in China for the World Championships.... amazing stories but needed her input, she was great and after numerous emails had pics and a story from her. In my opinion the best way to spend any money that they have left in their fund is not new websites, updated this or that: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) said he wins all the table tennis games at Man Utd training and is the best table tennis player in football, Steve Tilson (Manager of Southend Utd) said I will challenge him to a game.... this needs to be sorted £50,000 to the winners charity...live on tv...David Beckham scoring (if he can count to 11). Lets get all the football teams to have a club tournament (at a PremierClub near them) and get their best players to go to finals night for the big play off...worth EVERY penny of the prize fund... Ferdinand, Beckham, Gerrard saying they luv a bit of ping-pong would be worth its weight in gold... Anyway thanks for the enjoyable read Kind regards Rik James PAGE 7 – 06/10/07 O-O-O-O–O Howard - one correction for next issue if you would I am a non political animal as you know and will support anybody in office as long as they are trying to improve things and nobody should criticise any of the Chairmen I have worked with for lack of effort, I don't disagree with some of your comments at all but on a World Ranking discussion one must remember a few things. a) In the days when Desmond and Carl and Jill (our only truly World Class Modern Players) were playing the massive expansion of Chinese influence had not started, probably at their time there we about 5-7 Chinese in the whole of the world ranking list now the statistics with China 1 (China), China 2 (Hong Kong), China 3 (Singapore), China 4 (all the miscellaneous players in the other countries) are Mens top 100 - about 22 Chinese developed players Womens top 100 - about 42! Chinese developed players It's a different world out there these days. 2) A correction to Dave Harvey‟s piece (Item 5) he wrote To remedy this, I suggest that we give bonus points for reaching the latter stages of a tournament. This would mean that the likes of the better players have some incentive to enter, rather than just be awarded a derisory 1-point for most expected wins. This happens now, and this was actually implemented early in the Alex era For any event 2* or above with an entry of over 64 players in the event bonus points are awarded according to the following table for exactly the reason Dave says, to encourage better player to put themselves at risk of losing lots for a bad loss by giving them something to gain on the ranking front more than the 1 point a game for greatly expected wins Bonus Points allocation WEIGHTING Last 16 Last 8 Last 4 Runner-Up Winner 1.5+ +2 +5 +10 +20 2.0 +2 +5 +10 +20 +30 2.5 +5 +10 +15 +30 +50 3.0 +10 +20 +50 +75 +100 Wouldn't I just love to give 100 bonus points to a World or Olympic Champion and those are the weighting 3.0 events Malcolm Macfarlane ETTA Ranking Chairman PAGE 8 – 06/10/07 FTT thanks Malcolm Macfarlane for pointing out that the ITTF Ranking List is dominated by Chinese players, representing many countries – a point that FTT has mentioned. We are pleased to be corrected and always willing to debate points – that is why we are here! We did offer the ETTA Chairman Alex Murdoch the opportunity to comment, but so far he has been unwilling to answer the questions raised by our contributors. Possibly we should have offered to include a photograph? (No chance, Alex, most of our contributors have seen enough of you.) O-O-O-O–O KINGFISHER CLUB Dear Sir I write on behalf of Kingfisher Table Tennis Club, and refer to the article written by Brian Halliday, titled Four Fallow Years, in Free Table Tennis 3, were solely his own views and not the views of Kingfisher Table Tennis Club. Kingfisher TTC are an established club and we pride ourselves on having produced some of the best talent in English table tennis, any opinions that we may feel we have as a club will be discussed with the appropriate bodies in private. Yours in Sport Les Andrews Acting Hon. Gen. Secretary Kingfisher Table Tennis Club FTT comments – FTT accepts that Brian wrote the article as a personal viewpoint and his article reflects his own personal views. At no point is there any suggestion to the contrary. The Kingfisher Club was mentioned in Brian’s autobiography that reflects his vast experience and knowledge in our Sport. LATE NEWS: Just as we were going to distribute FTT/6, we had an interesting contribution from Keith Lesser. Could this be the Keith Lesser who comes from the little village of „Two Evils‟. He is known to his friends as the „Lesser of Two Evils‟. (Ed – sorry Keith, I could not resist that!) Keith makes some interesting points. Read Keith‟s contribution in FTT/7.
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