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ITTF unveils landmark plans to professionalise table tennis

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has today (Monday) detailed plans to professionalise the sport in the coming years through a partnership with sports marketing agency Sportsmaster.

Through the agreement, a new professional tournament platform will be set up in 2021, along with an integrated commercial programme that the ITTF hopes will “take the sport to the next level”.

The ITTF World Tour, Table Tennis X, World Veterans Tour and T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) will unite under the new strategy. The ITTF said the move will make table tennis one of the first sports to have its world championships and professional platforms under one roof in connection with its world ranking and Olympic qualification systems.

Sportsmaster will work with the ITTF to fully professionalise the World Tour, while the ITTF will also grant T2APAC the rights to arrange Diamond-level events in 2019 and 2020.

T2APAC, which launched last year, will serve as an “innovation engine” and will test the feasibility of new initiatives to support the growth of the World Tour. Initiatives will include new gameplay formats, ball-tracking technology, player management and broadcast innovations.

The ITTF added that next year it would go to market with a fully integrated commercial programme that will come into effect in 2021.

ITTF chief executive Steve Dainton said: “With our commercial rights in 2021 becoming available, we have analysed our core product offerings to ensure they provide the maximum commercial value. To make this happen, we have pushed through instrumental changes to our products to really transform table tennis into one of the leading sports globally.

“During meetings at the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships, the ITTF approved the first massive step by expanding the World Table Tennis Championships. Today we announce the next big step, which is our new professional platform. This will be quite unique for a sport having its World Championships and a separate yet truly professional platform under one roof, which is all connected to the world ranking and Olympic qualification, which we believe will make us pioneers in the sporting world.”

ITTF president Thomas Weikert added: “This is potentially one of the most significant steps that we have taken as a federation. It is a great step for us as we professionalise the sport and create a brand new proposition for the players and fans together with the ITTF family.

“This change is a result of many years of support and synergy with various partners in the sport. We must acknowledge the vision of (Sportsmaster founder) Mr Frank Ji who has spearheaded the development of this partnership.”