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Chinese table tennis president appointed to lead WTT Council

Xu Xin and Liang Jingkun of China compete against Lee Sangsu and Jeoung Youngsik of South Korea during the 2019 ITTF Team World Cup in Tokyo (by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Liu Guoliang, the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, has been appointed chair of the new World Table Tennis Council.

World Table Tennis is the commercial unit created by the International Table Tennis Federation last year to modernise and develop the sport, and revamp its competitions.

The ITTF said the WTT Council “will be the governing body of WTT towards the public and the market. It serves to represent the views of all key table tennis stakeholders worldwide”.

The WTT Council members comprise past and present players, ITTF personnel and figures from event hosts. ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton and deputy president Khalil Al-Mohannadi have so far been named as members, with more to come.

The ITTF said Liu, an Olympic and World Table Tennis Championships gold medal-winning player for China and former coach of the Chinese national team, would be “taking overall leadership and responsibility for pioneering the future of table tennis” in his role as chair.

Dainton said: “For the success of WTT and table tennis as a whole, it is imperative that we have people of the highest order actively involved in shaping the future of our sport. The fact that Liu Guoliang is the most influential figure in table tennis, not only in China but around the globe, positions him perfectly as Chair of the WTT Council.”

The ITTF is restructuring its top properties from 2021 onwards, doubling prize money, creating a new women’s tour, and improving broadcast production. WTT will commercialise the revamped properties, using a combination of in-house expertise and agency assistance. Philippe Le Floc’h, the former chief commercial officer at Fifa, is assisting as a consultant.

The ITTF earlier this year began a process to identify hosts for its new events from 2021 onwards.

The federation is understood to have agreed at least one major commercial deal for the cycle from 2021 onwards, with Chinese company Quanguan Sports (QG Sports). The rights covered by the deal are not yet clear. QG Sports has previously worked with the ITTF on youth development initiatives in China and is also a partner of the CTTA.

QG Sports’ chief executive is Lei Zhenjian, former chief executive of LeSports, the now-defunct Chinese sports video streaming platform.

The 2020 table tennis calendar has been badly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The World Team Table Tennis Championships, which were originally to take place in South Korea in February, were one of the first major international sports events to be cancelled as the pandemic spread. Earlier this month, they were pushed back from September-October this year until 2021.