Free Table Tennis 45
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE
ENGLISH TABLE TENNIS ASSOCIATION?
With the General Election having been fought, we can hopefully look forward to another ETTA
Officer election being contested in the coming season.
Recent ETTA Officer elections have taken a surprisingly different format to earlier elections
which were held annually – admittedly frequently the post holders were not challenged and an
actual vote was not required. Alex Murdoch was the first new chairman to have a two-year term
following his appointment and that allowed him more time to formulate and put his plans into
action before having to face the electorate. He took office on a tide of goodwill and support but
we have little evidence of new plans and policies from him or his „team‟.
With the Officer elections now being held every two years, the emphasis has changed from the
individual positions of chairman, deputy chairman and treasurer to the team structure of the
three positions combined. Now I realise that, when elected, the three members elected to those
three positions have to act as a team, but I have reservations about the process if one believes
that one of the officers is an asset while two of them are a liability. To vote on behalf of the
person/s challenging for one or two of the positions requires one to vote for the opponent of the
one person that may be considered satisfactory purely because the „team system‟ applies.
Should one vote purely in favour of your chosen candidates and abstain on the other positions?
Hopefully we shall have a contested election in the coming season. How will you approach the
Mr Murdoch has a reputation as the “happy, smiling chairman” and has widespread support
from those people who believe that is the only asset required of a chairman! However, those
opposed to the (lack of) forward-thinking Policies of the Chairman receive rough justice from the
Chairman and his cronies as the evil, vindictive side of their behaviour emerges.
Every table tennis person has opinions, and the diversity of opinions is one of the healthy
attractions of our Sport. We have always been able to discuss and debate those opinions, but
now people with opinions that diverge from those of the Chairman are pilloried and cast aside.
Berkshire, who have two members of Alex‟s inner circle in their county, have dispensed with the
services of Brian Halliday as their National Councillor after many years of loyal service, not only
to that county but also to the English Table Tennis Association. What a sad reflection upon our
Sport, but an even sadder reflection upon Alex Murdoch and his policies.
Readers of FTT will know that I have made regular contributions, and have always made a point
of writing under my own name. I was aware from the start that there was a risk in this for a
number of reasons. Firstly, remarks might be taken out of context, I might even be sued for
libel, the establishment might exact some terrible revenge!
I advised readers some time ago that a concerted effort by the Chairman and the Deputy
Chairman to have me deselected as National Councillor for Berkshire failed, because the Berks
committee gave their unanimous support to my continuing in office. They rejected letters and
emails sent to them without reference to me. I suppose you could read into all of this that I had
won the battle.
Next season‟s nomination for the position of the National Councillor for Berkshire took place
recently. I said that I was more than happy to represent the county at the national level;
however a member of the committee put his own name forward. He said that he thought that it
was time for a change and that he personally objected to my contributions to Free Table
Tennis. Freedom of speech had been rejected and a vote was passed in his favour by 4 votes
to 1 (mine!).
I was unhappy with the decision mainly because it deprived me of representing my county and
of expressing an opinion at National Council. I had no prior knowledge whatsoever that a coup
was in the offing. The new incumbent offered to shake hands. An offer refused coupled with a
more than firm rebuke. I firmly believe that I was well and truly “stitched up” by the
establishment. This battle lost - but not yet the war I feel.
There are members, and a number of ex members, of the Management Committee of the ETTA
who have always been friendly and pleasant. To be frank I will miss them all, together with the
Councillors who have stimulated my passion for our sport for over 30 years.
Will I carry on? Yes of course, but I will need help. I appreciate how difficult it is to complain
especially when it might prove embarrassing to a friend or colleague; however you can always
email me with criticism and/or constructive comment. I will ensure that your voice will be heard,
and in strict confidence. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to give all comment
the very closest attention.
Sincerely, Brian Halliday (ex Councillor for Berkshire).
This is a sad day for table tennis.
What does it say for democracy and freedom of speech? We all have opinions and should be
entitled to express those opinions.
Brian has always expressed his opinions together with the reasons that substantiate those
opinions. He has a wealth of experience to draw upon and has always been willing to discuss
those opinions openly. We are pleased that Brian will continue to contribute to FTT, and will
willingly print Alex’s response should he wish to reply.
ALEX, TELL US THE TRUTH
E.T.T.A. sources claim that they are „Open‟ with the membership in their reporting yet only want
to tell us the good news!
FTT has campaigned for more openness in the belief that we must first recognise the problems
before we can plan to improve our Sport, much as any marriage guidance counsellor would
advise “it is important to air the doubts.” For seven years of Alex Murdoch‟s chairmanship, we
have failed to recognise a single fault.
A couple of years ago, FTT questioned when the England no.1 ranked junior girl was dropped
from the England Womens team at the World Championships in favour of a player ranked
No.94 on the England Womens Ranking List. FTT was informed that we were wrong, as the
selection was based upon the fact that the selected player was a better prospect for the 2012
Olympics. Well that (No.94 ranked) player has retired from competitive play while the „dropped‟
player is now ranked at No.3 in the England Women Ranking List. FTT does not suggest that
the Ranking List is perfect, nor should selections be based purely upon that list, but we do
suggest that it is a better guide for the selectors than some of their personal judgements.
LET US KNOW LOOK AT OTHER OFFICIAL NEWS:
1) THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS –
We seem to have completely disappeared from the National newspapers in the reporting of
events and results of competitions so we have to relay upon the ETTA website.
Back in the days when we had volunteer captains, the captain would write a report together with
all the results and that would be distributed to all local league and county press officers via the
postal service. One would think that with captains employed full-time by the ETTA and the
availability of email, the service would be better. But no, we may be told about the matches that
are won but silence surrounds many lost matches.
The mens team at the World Team Championships slipped down to 38 th place; difficult to
imagine judging from the reported results – but the ITTF website reveals that we also lost to Iran
and Vietnam both by 1-3.
The ETTA website did report “winning again” being a 3-1 victory over world titans Scotland, but
even then Paul Drinkhall again lost to Rumgay, which is hardly Olympic form.
The women, who Steen Hansen told us spent more time attending to their nails, did slightly
better to finish in 22nd place. Rumour has it, that means that we will still be relegated to division
three next time around.
FTT has heard rumours that the „elite squad‟ in Sheffield is being cut from 12 to 6 players and
that two of the foreign coaches have been made redundant. National Council are responsible
for staff but Alex Murdoch appears not to have informed the Council members.
2) E.T.T.A.MEMBERSHIP FIGURES –
The latest issue of membership figures is coupled with a report stating that actual membership
has increased for the first time since 1978.
But let us examine those figures.
The list of leagues (for seasons 2002/03 to 2009/10) includes over twenty junior leagues who
were not in last year‟s list – yet the majority of these leagues show a membership going back at
least six seasons! The numbers were included in previous lists yet the league names and
numbers did not appear. No explanation is given.
Then let us look at the senior leagues showing an apparent increase. There are a number
featuring an increase purely because their membership last season is listed as „0‟. In some
cases, their „nil‟ showing last season was because they did not pay their insurance fee on top of
the league affiliation fee. So strictly speaking, they did not increase their membership but purely
conformed by paying the insurance element of the affiliation.
What the report fails to mention is that although the 2009/10 (6999 teams) figures have
increased from the 2008/09 (6896) figures, they are still below the 2007/08 (7075) figures -
before insurance was made compulsory.
Now while I am fully in agreement with insurance, let us not forget that the membership has
dropped since compulsion was introduced and we should not dress up the figures in order to be
able to proclaim an increase.
CRB WITH THE ETTA
I have had a great number of enquiries regarding CRB checks for coaches, umpires and
general club helpers.
The ETTA have issued a Code of Conduct and there is a great deal of literature available from
the ETTA. I am indebted to Judy Rogers at Hastings who supplied me with the information so
promptly and efficiently.
GRASS-ROOTS SECTION (PART TWENTY-THREE)
I started playing our wonderful sport of table tennis at home on the dining room table. When I
started playing lawn tennis, my choice of club was one that had a table tennis table in the
When I wanted to play at a „proper‟ table tennis club, then the local YMCA was the obvious
choice, from there I advanced to playing in the local league.
None of the clubs in the local league had more than two tables, so one maximised the playing
opportunities and diversity of opposing players and styles by playing in the local league.
Fast forward to today when virtually all the clubs have multiple tables. One can never leave
one‟s home club yet play against a diversity of players and styles.
One of my local clubs has more social table tennis than league table tennis.
Is this because single-table venues are more condusive to league play while multiple table
facilities are more conducive to social table tennis?
THE LATEST ROUND UP By Brian Halliday
Apart from the English Open, which made its long awaited return to the calendar, the English
National Championships are our flagship event. So why were there schoolboy howlers that
proved to be beyond a joke? The draw on the website was different to the draw in the
programme. The draw in the programme was different to the draw on the wall. Seeded players
were incorrect. Total confusion for both players and spectators. There was live TV Video
screening but unfortunately there was no commentator. The programme provided the wrong
name for the Mayor, as the compiler had filched the entry from last year‟s programme and had
forgotten to update it. You couldn‟t make it up! Seriously, the circumstances seemed to show
that the editorial team does not have sufficient knowledge of the sport.
Who was the guy prominently featured on the cover of the February edition of Table Tennis
News? We searched everywhere for his name. Eventually all was revealed. It was none other
than up and coming junior, and our new National Junior Champion, Daniel Basterfield. Now if
we could locate him, why couldn‟t Table Tennis News? All credit to Daniel on his victory, but
one has to ask why on earth our National Junior Championships were scheduled on the same
dates as the World Junior Championships, which deprived our own Championships of our best
MEDIA WATCH NO 2
Table Tennis News again. The February issue provided its own puzzle pages!!! We think it
meant that you were invited to guess the celebrity presenting Tin Tin Ho with her prize
(page11). Is it, as the picture identified, Sue Barker? Well she was a tennis player!! But no
folks - it is Clare Balding of Racing fame, NOT Sue Barker at all. Heavens above, TTN got it
MEDIA WATCH NO 3
See previous entry. Puzzle page No 10 showed Chairman Alex with a number of celebrities
presenting the National winners Joanna Parker and Paul Drinkhall with their trophies. But who
is the guy standing beside Alex? Table Tennis News does not know because they printed
UNKNOWN in the caption to the photograph. (I hope it was not the sponsor, because he would
be very upset.) Maybe TTN needs a new proof reader!!!!
MEDIA WATCH - WEBSITE
We were promised a new website last August but delays have meant it will not be available until
the end of May. There has been much “twittering” but little substance. Maybe we need more
people with intellect and a knowledge of our sport. It seems strange that with more than 50
professional staff on board that the service leaves something to be desired.
Subscriptions to Table Tennis News are at an all time low. Moves have been made to reduce
the number of issues to 4 a season. There was a suggestion at National Council recently to do
away with the publication altogether. How strange that at the start of this Management regime,
proud boasts were made that a new magazine format would double or even treble
subscriptions. There was even the suggestion that the magazine would appear in WH Smith.
How the mighty have fallen! Well do we want a magazine or not? If we do, what sort of format
do we want? Please let us know, for after all it is YOUR sport, and not the plaything of
ENGLAND TEAMS. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Now that our Performance Director, Steen Hansen, is now our ex Performance Director, and
has departed to pastures new in Spain, the ETTA were faced with a very difficult situation as to
what to do next. They have, presumably as a stop gap solution, appointed Richard Yule to the
position of Performance Manager on a one day a week basis. Now our Chief Executive has
been an excellent appointment but one has to ask whether this additional work load is a step
too far for Richard. Also if the job can be done by Richard on one day every week, what on
earth was Steen doing 7 days a week for over 7 years?
We know that the ETTA say they are short of money for our National teams, but it doesn‟t take
an expert to suggest that monies could be saved by making cuts in the staff of over 50. I expect
further dramatic changes in the Selection set-up!
ALL STAR ELECTION TOUR?
A number of conferences are scheduled to take place at different venues in each region with
Alex Murdoch in attendance to make one of the key speeches. I am not sure as to the main
objective of these conferences, but with the Chair election coming up in 2011 they are certainly
scheduled at an opportune time.
With the coaching fraternity losing their ETTA qualifications, it looks as if disenfranchisement
may well be on the cards. Are our long serving coaches prepared to allow their time to be spent
on long courses and pay exorbitant fees, or will they just retire from their service to the sport?
My own view is that they will, with the result that the sport will be damaged.
PS - In the spirit of fair play I will be meeting Alex Murdoch at the VETTS National
Championships at Thornbury very shortly, and will tackle him on the above points. I will report
It amazes me that so much energy is spent by trying to discredit the chairman. Having served
on the Management Committee of both the current and former chairmen, I am in a good
position to sing the praises or otherwise of both men. I have never had any close allegiance to
either man. I remember telling AER when he asked me to serve on his team, that I was not a
„yes woman and would not agree with him regardless, as I was (and still am) my own person‟
Regardless of some people‟s opinions, table tennis is a minor sport and all this infighting serves
no purpose. We are so short of volunteers, that a degree of tolerance is needed to keep all
those who show any inclination to serve – playing to one‟s strengths and covering one‟s
weaknesses, comes to mind.
I did suggest that the term of office of a chairman should be limited (say 5 years) with the last
year being used to transfer power to the chairman elect. This would stop all this dirty
electioneering and ensure that both old and new chairmen worked together and therefore not
feel the need to make certain changes that have clearly been made to mark a power base. For
any person to give 5 years to the top post should be sufficient.
I also remember a meeting in London with the Sports Council that recommended that no
chairperson should have any trade interests. This was agreed by AER for all new chairmen. He
clearly did not think that defeat was on the cards. Funny how this agreement has been forgotten
despite being documented!
It is true that „power corrupts‟ and I have seen both men at their best and worst. The latter of
which, is unforgivable. The choice is whether we continue on this path to destruction or actually
try to make some grown up decisions which will be for the betterment of the sport and not for
No one can deny that you have insider knowledge of both Alex Murdoch and Alan
Ransome, and I accept that you did not have a close allegiance with either man. May I point
out that Mike Johns conspired with Alex Murdoch in producing ‘Sportsbreak’ which castigated
Alan and propelled Alex and Mike to the positions of chaiman and deputy chairman? At the
time, I had little personal knowledge of Alex, but I had great regard for Mike’s integrity and
honesty so his opinion helped sway my support in Alex’s favour.
FTT did not set out to be negative towards Alex but to ask questions. Had Alex
answered those questions then FTT could have progressed towards a more positive position of
advising Alex towards a more successful policy instead of refusing to accept the areas where
criticism has been levelled.
I do not accept that table tennis is not a major sport. According to official statistics, 1)
we are the second highest participation sport in the world and the biggest racket sport with an
estimated 300 million participants; 2) Table Tennis is 1 of only 6 international sports federations
to have over two hundred member countries AND 3) 2.4 million play table tennis within the UK
(British Market Research Bureau)
Your suggestion that the position of chairman be limited to a five year term is slightly
amusing. The current and last chairman have served a combined total term of 19 years
(including the current year), so under your suggestion we would be looking towards the fifth
chairman taking over next year. Where are the candidates capable of undertaking the position
to comply with your suggestion? Yes, we have to play to peoples’ strengths, but what are
Alex’s – smiling and shaking hands? Yes, there are many people who think that he is wonderful
Comments upon previous reports
Thanks for your email. And also for your latest issue which is full of thought-provoking copy.
Interestingly, when Alex Murdoch „came to power‟ I was hoping for great things from the ETTA.
But this does not seem to have transpired. Now I don‟t, for one minute, think that this is due to
a lack of some enthusiasm, but rather from lack of direction.
The other detrimental factor is much-too-much reliance on grant money. From experience of a
number of organisations I have discovered that the moment they start to receive hand-outs they
sit back and await the money rather than getting out and raising (and enthusing others in the
process) the cash themselves.
Worst still, as we have seen from Sport England, and similar donors, they also become
beholden to the tenants of those offering the grants (a sort of „Greek Gift‟ in a way!).
Keep up the good work
Yes I believe we all hoped for great things when Alex was elected, indeed I was a supporter of
him. Unfortunately many of us have been disappointed and question his direction.
What is extremely irritating is his refusal to accept that he has done anything wrong, when we
feel that he has failed to act in numerous areas.
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