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World Table Tennis to run showcase event in Macau

(Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images)

World Table Tennis is running an event in Macau on November 25-29 to showcase some of the features of its upcoming revamp of International Table Tennis Federation competitions.

WTT, an offshoot of the ITTF created to freshen and commercialise the global federation’s tournaments, said the event “will offer a first glimpse into the future of the sport” and allow “players, fans and broadcasters to experience a teaser of what to expect when WTT launches its first annual calendar of events in 2021”.

The event will feature 32 leading players, 16 male and 16 female, whose identities will be announced in the coming weeks. They will play a new format of table tennis, with a new scoring method that WTT said will increase excitement for viewers.

The event will take place at the Tap Seac Multi-sports Pavilion in Macau.

Liu Guoliang, the chair of the WTT Council, said, “WTT Macau is our opportunity to show the world just what an incredible transformation our sport will be going through in the World Table Tennis era, and to demonstrate how we are elevating table tennis into one of the greatest sporting properties on the planet. This has always been my dream, ever since my playing days, and now is our chance to start making this dream a reality.”

Steve Dainton, WTT director and ITTF chief executive, said, “WTT Macau will be a table tennis show like no other before it…After months of waiting to see what this is all about, the time has come to raise the curtain for our first ever exhibition of World Table Tennis.”

The event is planned to take place after a series of ITTF tournaments events in China, branded the #RESTART series, comprised of the 2020 Women’s World Cup, the 2020 Men’s World Cup and the 2020 ITTF Finals. These events are set to be rare exceptions to China’s shutdown of international events taking place in the country this year.

ITTF unveiled WTT earlier this year. The unit is changing the ITTF tournament structure to create four tentpole ‘Grand Smash’ tournaments per year, with strong cash prize pools. A regular season of tournaments christened the WTT Series will have two tiers – top-tier WTT Cup Finals events and second-tier WTT Champions Series events. There will also be two tiers of tournaments for emerging talent.

The IMG agency has been appointed in a long-term deal to help WTT manage the commercial rights from 2021 onwards. WTT is also planning to manage some of the commercial work in-house, supported by Philippe Le Floc’h, the former chief commercial officer at Fifa, working with it as a strategy consultant.

There is a strong Chinese presence in the WTT revamp. It is being backed by Chinese investors and its chairman Liu Guoliang is also the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association. One of WTT’s partners is understood to be Chinese firm QG Sports, which is led by Lei Zhenjian, former chief executive of LeSports, the defunct Chinese sports video streaming platform. QG has been a partner of the CTTA and the ITTF on projects including training academies.

In July, WTT said it was in the market for further investment.