1-8 FTT46 04/07/10 Free Table Tennis 46 ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE ENGLISH TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION? firstname.lastname@example.org INTRODUCTION It is very difficult to keep politics out of table tennis when the ETTA is becoming so dependant upon government money to fund each new venture. The ETTA, like the government, has been spending an enormous amount of money over recent years while trying to subsidise the various elements of the population. The new government has just announced a new budget in which the prospect of reduced budgets have been announced in order to reduce the national debt. We still have to learn how table tennis will be effected although the budget for the Olympic squad had been announced previously, and that money was spent by Steen Hansen. Alex Murdoch is still smiling about the amount of money that the ETTA receives in funding but for how much longer? Have we been producing better players as a result of the employed (many foreign) coaches than we did with the previous volunteer coaches? Would Denis Neale, Chester Barnes, Nicky Jarvis, Paul Day, John Hilton, Des Douglas, Carl Prean, Alan Cooke and Matthew Syed have been better players if they had gone onto the ETTA Coaching Conveyor Belt? I don’t think so! The English lawn tennis players have just had “their worst Wimbledon for 133 years” despite the LTA having sixty million pounds per year with which to produce better players. I look at the list of promising young females that went to Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham and wonder what happened to them – the majority simply disappeared. Yet they had been produced by enthusiastic, local coaches. The question must be asked is “how many would have been better players (and still playing) if they had stopped at home with their local coach?” . It does not seem very long ago that we were informed that we had the “best 12 year-olds in the World”. If they had stopped at home, would they have followed Douglas, Prean, Cooke and Syed into the upper echelons of the World Ranking List before now. 2-8 FTT46 04/07/10 We are now in the time of year that used to be considered the off-season, the time of the year between the end of one table tennis season and the start of the following season. But does that off-season still exist? The first weekend in June saw the County Championships Annual Conference being held and also two junior tournaments. There was a lack of umpires presumably because they were attending the Conference or on holiday. Do we really expect our umpires to work for twelve months of the year? The players can take a break from competitive play, infact that is adviseable so why do we expect tournament organisers and umpires to be available throughout the year! The tournament calendar requires pruning. FACE TO FACE WITH THE ETTA/VETTS CHAIRMAN By Brian Halliday I spent a very pleasant weekend at Thornbury recently. The event was the VETTS National Championships. Very well attended by players and supporters. I enjoyed it immensely. Once players have left the senior ranks they seem to have more time to play their shots, and the result is longer rallies and a far more interesting spectacle. (Or is it that we are all getting older as well as slower?) In the last issue I made the promise to readers that I would seek out Alex Murdoch and ask for his response to a number of the questions that I had raised. Readers will know only too well that I have been somewhat critical of Alex and his regime in many issues of Free Table Tennis. I suppose some would say criticisms might have gone too far; nevertheless I stand by everything that I have written. At times comment has been scathing in the extreme but this has not stopped Alex and I remaining on very friendly terms, at least that is when we meet. Well we met up at Thornbury, tucked ourselves away in a corner, sat down and had a face to face chat for three quarters of an hour. To be fair to Alex I must point out that the questions were posed on the day. First off I asked Alex about the National Senior Championships and the various errors that had been brought to my notice. Straight off he admitted that mistakes had been made, especially regarding the draw. He conceded that there were errors in the programme which were inexcusable. Alex said that he would see that there would be no repetition next year. He pointed out that reports, after the event, from players, coaches, and spectators, as well as internet subscribers were very positive, and that no players were affected by the draw situation. . . . Continued Next Page . . . 3-8 FTT46 04/07/10 We discussed the Table Tennis News current position. There is a mood afoot to maybe draw a line under the magazine entirely, especially as most information can be gathered from the internet. We agreed that this might be the way forward however both our personal preferences were for the magazine to continue, perhaps on a four issues a year basis. He suggested that the magazine should be more article based, and if the website could produce news quickly enough, then TTN might be linked to Individual Membership. I pointed out that there were too many errors in TTN, and drew his attention to pages 10 and 11 of the February issue, where Clare Balding was shown as Sue Barker and the word “Unknown” appeared in a group of VIPs. Alex agreed that this was unsatisfactory, although he did not agree that there were “many errors”. We discussed the new website and its delayed implementation. The end of June 2010 was now the new date. The performances of the National teams were discussed in detail. I explained that there were many members who were very unhappy with the reign of Steen Hansen, and that his replacement, Richard Yule, on a one day a week basis appeared very strange. He said, and I agreed, that Richard Yule would do the job brilliantly. It remains to be seen however, if it is a job too far for the Chief Executive. Although I believe that the sport is under very serious financial restraints, Alex said that the sport was receiving more funding than ever before. He explained that funding was not just about the Elite Group but also Talent Development via Sport England funding streams. Alex intimated that money into this area was at over three times the investment made when he took office. The sport seems to have hit the rocks as far as Sport UK is concerned. It is all about medals at the Olympics - and that is where sports such as rowing (how many countries have rowers?) and synchronised swimming seem to have more financial clout. Alex commented that in overall funding from all sources our sport is very significant and in many other cases exceeds other Olympic Sports. We talked about the problems facing our coaches in respect of the new regulations which will mean scrapping our own qualifications and replacing them with a new UK based qualification. Alex said that Coaching Qualification to UKCC started 6 years ago and that the Coaching Department have been addressing this situation for some time and that the take up on UKCC courses was significant. The above gives a flavour of what was a very amicable discussion. I am sure that I will revert to the norm very shortly. Howard comments – Both Alex and Brian feel that Richard Yule can do the job of Steen Hansen “brilliantly” on a one-day-a-week basis. Which again begs the question “what did Steen do?” Perhaps we shall never receive the answer to that question! It is good news that the „take up on UKCC courses was significant‟ but how many experienced coaches are deciding to retire rather than pay a considerable amount of money in order to continue in a voluntary capacity? 4-8 FTT46 04/07/10 A ‘CRITIC’ WRITES AGAIN - Dear Howard, Congratulations on an excellent issue of Free Table Tennis. Without this we would not know what is going on. The official organ, little more than a tepid servant of the ETTA management committee, deliberately tells us nothing. The result is that it is continuing to lose readers and its total closure is now being discussed. You deserve particular praise for giving so much space to views which are the opposite to yours. You are right. The most urgent issue before the members may well be the election which will take place this coming season. It is obvious to me and many others that Alex Murdoch lacks the ability to be a good chairman of the ETTA and that Alan Ransome, if he runs again, is a vastly superior candidate in respect of knowledge of the essential matters and in organisational abilities. Murdoch is short of what Bush senior used to call "the vision thing ". As Gail Johns so rightly commented, Ransome 's main problem is in his commercial interests as a leading supplier of table tennis equipment which may lead to conflicts of interests, having done so in the past. Ransome may realise this, but he will need to put forward much stronger safeguards than the weak trade committee idea which has not worked in the past, In all other respects he is the stronger candidate. I do not follow the theory that we should all rally round Murdoch and help him. You cannot make the wrong man the right one by keeping him in office and a task he is so incapable of doing well. He himself, as the recent Halliday case has shown, is remarkably intolerant of opposition and views other than his own limited ones. He has every opportunity too to answer the plentiful criticisms voiced in FTT, but he has chosen to remain quiet. People are entitled to believe what they read, if this is accepted without comment which seems to have been the Murdoch practice. The "Do-Little " spirit seems to prevail. . . . Continued Next Page . . . 5-8 FTT46 04/07/10 Kindly Murdoch supporters seem incapable of defending him, relying on attacking the other side. He has given us the worst national team in our history as well as the biggest staff. I cannot think of a single significant achievement from him. He seems to get on well with the sporting quangos which was able to give us such large sums in the past and he seems willing to do what they tell him which seems to have been disastrous, certainly in the area of main funding, that of international excellence which is supported by the 38th place won by our men in the recent World Team Championships. Many members may not see this as the major priority, but it shows how successful we and the quangos have been. I am afraid we do need change, but, if anybody thinks Murdoch is doing a good job, perhaps they will let us know. It is hardly the critics who have brought us to our present dismal situation. Critic Howard comments – Yes, will any Alex supporters please tell us what he has done well? REMINDER: You can see the Cheltenham League website on www.ctta.co.uk and you can download Free Table Tennis from this site. FTT can also be found on www.tabletennisuk.info You can see Barry Meisel’s International TT articles at: http://www.costa- news.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=85&item=157 Website http://www.freewebs.com/internationaltabletennisclub Alternatively you can contact Barry via Facebook under Barry Meisel ITTF GRASS-ROOTS SECTION (PART TWENTY-THREE) OUTDOOR TABLES: I happened to watch some of the pre-Wimbledon lawn tennis from Queens Club on television, and during one of the many rain-breaks there was an interview with one of the British male lawn tennis players (yes, we do have some). The interview was in the Players’ Relaxation Area, and there were a couple of the lawn tennis players playing table tennis. They were not very good, but at least table tennis was on the television. This was a couple of days after a large report in the Daily Telegraph regarding the outdoor table tennis tables being set up all around the City of London. Great, we had table tennis in a national newspaper. A few days later, similar news appeared on the ETTA website. . . . Continued next Page . . . 6-8 FTT46 04/07/10 But who is going to play on these tables and what standard will they be? We have an item on the ETTA website about social table tennis: will it enthuse anybody to take up the game competitively? Or will it be left to local volunteers to go talent-spotting in the hope of picking up new members. These schemes are all very well, but what will they do for the Sport of table tennis? An appeal has gone out for volunteers, 75 lead volunteers and 225 helpers. It is said that the ETTA volunteers will organise activities and competitions. According to ETTA Directives, everyone participating in competitive play must be a paid-up ETTA Individual Member. Are Alex Murdoch and Martin Clark going to be patrolling London ensuring that the people playing are Individual Members, getting them to fill in forms and pay their money? Can anybody explain to me? E.T.T.A. ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: The ETTA AGM will be held in Daventry this year on 10th July 2010. I hear that the venue of a National Council meeting near Daventry earlier this year caused travelling problems for many people. At least Birmingham has good road and rail links. Many people will not be able to travel to Daventry, attend the meeting and then get home in the same day. Surely more consideration should be given to the venue for the only meeting that the general membership can attend in the year. Once more, there is a long list of Rule Change Proposals and yet again many involve the introduction of Individual Membership. The actual cost of Individual Membership is already known: Officially the suggested fees have to be confirmed at the Annual General Meeting, but members have only one fee to vote upon. If the vote on the proposed fee level is defeated, does that mean the fee will be nil? No, of course not. You are expected to vote in favour of the suggested fee level. Surely, in a democratic association, one should be given an alternative? I hear that there have been changes made to the method of implementing I.M. and that those changes have been publicised on the ETTA website. However there is no indication on the website that the information differs from the original. So if you read it and thought that you understood it, then you had better read it again! 7-8 FTT46 04/07/10 Comments upon previous reports Dear Howard, In FTT43, you were again on your personal hobby-horse of using school facilities. In my local area, the clubs that use school facilities have some of the worst playing conditions, the floors are slippy and the lighting is poor, and the league programme is disrupted because of school holidays. Therefore we should be looking to purpose-built facilities and not condoning the use of inferior conditions. Dear Frank, If you read my comments again, you will see that I was trying to promote the “Adopt-a- School‟ programme that was introduced some twenty-five years ago, and I did mention that there could be a problem with school facilities. Certainly if the playing facilities are not suitable for league play, then they should not be used as a venue. However if an existing club „adopts‟ a school, then the school facilities could be used for coaching and practice sessions freeing up table time at the main club. The main club could then provide the coaching at the school and encourage the children (and their parents) to participate at the main club. Howard Dear Howard I started umpiring over 40 years ago and umpired around the tournament circuit. Often getting out of bed before dawn to travel to the tournament and arriving home late at night after continuous umpiring throughout the day. The county matches provided some relief because it only involved one match played locally in the afternoon. With marriage and children, my tournament days had to take a backseat for a few years before thinking about resuming my umpire activities. What did I find? There are far more tournaments, often starting earlier and finishing later and the table manners of the players have deteriorated. County matches are not played locally but en-bloc and that means another long weekend away from home. I do not enjoy umpiring all weekend and then having to drag myself into work on a Monday morning. I now enjoy umpiring cricket matches, a very pleasant afternoon with good sportsmanship, plenty of refreshments and I get paid! 8-8 FTT46 04/07/10 If the ETTA wish to encourage me to return to sitting next to a tt table then they will have to seriously consider the tournament setup. I love table tennis but I shall be limiting my time to actually playing unless there are realistic changes to the present organisation of weekend competitions. Trevor Howard replies I think that the majority of players appreciate the efforts of the umpires who give of their time to assist in the smooth running of British League, County Championships and tournaments that seem to take up virtually every weekend. One former Management Committee member did suggest that we should go metric and have 100 weekends. Maybe he was right! In the meantime, possible the ETTA should be more critical when accepting tournaments and only accept those who organise better and attract quality entries. Dear Howard I have noticed that the information about Individual Membership on the ETTA website has changed, and wonder what the reason is for the change. Ossie Howard comments – I had not noticed any changes but one must remember that I.M. is a „work in progress‟ and I do not believe that all the complications were envisaged when it was decided to push the changes through. I tried to contact Dianne Kirkwood who was monitoring the I.M. scheme but she has not replied to my questions. I have heard, from other sources, that she has resigned as she did not agree with some of the changes being made. It will be interesting to see whether these changes are explained to the Membership! There will be an opportunity to question these changes at the ETTA Annual General Meeting when further Rule Change Proposals are discussed to implement the Scheme for the coming season.