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ITTF to adopt multi-city hosting model, extends use of player review tech

Table Tennis Review (TTR) at work during the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals (image by ITTF)

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has approved the use of a multi-city hosting model for future World Team Championship events, along with extending the use of its new Table Tennis Review (TTR) technology.

The decisions came during the ITTF’s first Executive Committee meeting of 2020, held in Delhi, India. The Federation said it is in discussions with the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) about staging the 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals across multiple cities in China.

The ITTF believes this will enable greater television coverage of more matches during the competition, as well as increased fan engagement over multiple host cities across the country, pointing to other events that have utilised such a format, including football’s Fifa World Cup and basketball’s Fiba World Cup.

ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton said: “The philosophy of the new expanded World Table Tennis Championships Finals has always been focused on increasing the global footprint of our sport’s biggest event. This is a format that will eventually integrate all our members and maximise exposure of the event.

“By providing relevant content in multiple locations and engaging with a larger community/audience in the host country, the 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals have a higher potential to ensure worldwide media coverage and achieve commercial success.

“Due to the popularity of the sport, we believe that China is the ideal place to implement this new concept. Discussions have already been initiated with CTTA and they seem very positive.”

The ITTF last month said it would introduce a player review system for the first time at one of its events, with Chinese technology company RigourTech engaged to implement the system at the World Tour Grand Finals held in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou from December 12-15.

The TTR system utilises ball tracking technology, making it possible to have a point replayed instantly and reviewed by a video match official, who has the authority to overturn the original decision based on the evidence.

At the time, the ITTF said that should full-scale implementation at the World Tour Grand Finals prove successful it would look to ensure that TTR features at more top-tier events in 2020. The ITTF has now said TTR’s use at the World Tour Grand Finals resulted in positive feedback from players.

Therefore, the ExCo has agreed to implement TTR at major ITTF events in 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It added the Federation is constantly working to deliver the best possible product, such as reducing the time spent between the player’s call to review and the final decision.

Dainton said: “With the tech trend already so prominent in sports, we felt it was important to implement a new technology that will ensure a fair competition for all the athletes, empowering them to challenge any decision made by the umpire.

“The benefits of using the TTR system are very positive and we can actually talk about an evolution of the sport of table tennis. We received very positive feedback from the players and we anticipate a major improvement in terms of the viewers’ experience going forwards.”

In other news, the ExCo was told of “significant progress” made regarding World Table Tennis, the entity that will run the ITTF’s commercial business in the future. The WTT event structure, branding and vision for the sport are close to being finalised and due to be released before the 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships in March.