Helping sport federations grow themselves, their athletes, and their membership

Spotlight on Table Tennis

The popular sport of Table Tennis is governed by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), based in Lausanne, Switzerland. ITTF was founded in 1926 by William Henry Lawes from Wymondham in South Norfolk, England. The founding members were Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, India, Sweden, and Wales. It was also the same year that the first international tournament was held with Berlin as the hosts. Later in December, London hosted the first World Table Tennis Championships. From there the sport grew rapidly with the current member associations within the ITTF far exceeding 200. Each continent is also managed by a regional governing body, and it is the responsibility of ITTF to ensure that good governance is passed down to these federations. The last two decades have provided ITTF with the opportunity to bring a greater commercial aspect to the sport, giving athletes bigger prize money, raising the quality of the performance, and enhancing the world appeal even further.   

The make it a better televised spectator sport, the older 38 mm balls were officially replaced by 40 mm balls. This ensured the ball’s air resistance increased, slowing the game down more. A ruling in 2008 decided by an Executive Meeting meant that players could not easily switch associations and it also encouraged nations and regions to develop their own players. To further enhance the commercial appeal of table tennis, World Table Tennis was founded by ITTF with the focus specifically on professional athletes. The history of table tennis dates to Victorian England where the game mainly served the upper-class as an after-dinner entertainment. The name ‘ping-pong’ was in wide use before J. Jaques & Sons Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The expensive equipment manufactured by the company forced most associations to change their names to ‘table tennis’ instead of the more common name.   

The same situation occurred in the States when the trademark was sold to Parker Brothers. In the early 1900s the game took a significant step forward with the introduction of celluloid balls and the invention of the specialized sheet of rubber that was fixed to the racket. In 1921 the Table Tennis Association was founded and renamed five years later to the English Table Tennis Association. Later the name was changed again to what we are familiar with today. Further changes to the equipment in the 1950s meant that an underlying sponge layer was added to the rubber sheet on the paddles. This brought about greater spin. The introduction of rules eventually meant the game was slowed down making it more appealing as a spectator sport. A further boost came when table tennis was first introduced to the Olympic program in 1988. It has featured at every Olympics since and has continued to grow to one of the most popular sports in the world today.  

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