A joint declaration by the ITTF, the ITTF event and marketing arm World Table Tennis and the German Table Tennis Association (DTTB) now formally ends the conflict over the introduction of World Table Tennis that arose at the end of 2020. ITTF President Petra Sörling, the CEO of the ITTF Group as well as World Table Tennis Board member Steve Dainton and DTTB President Claudia Herweg share some background in a three-person interview and talk about the upcoming events in Germany.
With the joint statement of the DTTB, the ITTF and World Table Tennis, the conflict has now been settled. How satisfied are you with that?
Petra Sörling: As the President of the ITTF, I am extremely pleased to bring this trying chapter to a close. All parties are now willing to end the pending proceedings as soon as possible. One of the most important goals of my Presidential manifesto was to unite the ITTF family because I believe in the strength of our family working together.
Claudia Herweg: I am glad that this conflict has now also been officially settled so that we can work together on the necessary changes. Fortunately, we have always managed to communicate at the working level about events in Germany and have now also successfully organised four events of the WTT Feeder Series .
Steve Dainton: Change and large change, especially during such a complicated period of time like we all suffered during the pandemic was very difficult for many member associations. Despite doing our best to communicate and explain the changes our sport desperately needed, it was still overwhelming for many so we could understand that at the time some associations struggled with our bold and brave decisions of change. Time is always healing. With fresh eyes and the pandemic easing, it is now time to work together and let the past be the past and focus on the future for the benefit of table tennis. It’s really a good moment for our sport that we conclude these differences of opinion and ensure we put focus on developing one of our most important markets – Germany.
To what extent did it help that Claudia Herweg became the new DTTB president in December?
Sörling: It was very important that Claudia knows and appreciates the people concerned on both sides personally and could nevertheless act as a mediator and shed light on how the conflict came about.
Herweg: The basic problem was that, because of the pandemic, it was no longer possible for all people involved to talk in person and maintain personal relationships eye to eye during the crucial months, while at the same time enormous changes were imminent at the international level.
Dainton: I see it exactly the same way. Without the pandemic, this would certainly not have happened. We have all learnt a lot in these complicated years.
What happens now that the problems have been solved?
Herweg: Germany aims to host one of the WTT Champions events in Autumn 2023, the highest category after WTT Grand Smash. In addition, several Feeder events. We want to finally offer sports fans world-class table tennis action with all the stars from home and abroad on a regular basis again, as they are used to from the annual German Open since 1999 and our other top events like the former World Cup.
Dainton: It is and always has been all about partnership and co-operation. To now discuss to have a Champions event in Germany, as well as several other tiers of WTT events, is a great step forward to help not only the table tennis market in Germany but also the sport to grow regionally and internationally.
Sörling: The DTTB has been an essential partner of the ITTF for decades and I am glad to resume constructive cooperation with a clear focus on the future. It is a federation with a long tradition but has always worked to improve our sport’s presentation. I am convinced that together we will make table tennis stronger, and I cannot wait to see this major WTT event hosted in Germany.
Have venue and exact date for 2023 already been decided?
Herweg: We are in negotiations with World Table Tennis and a host city, but the contract has not yet been signed. The most important thing for us is that we are all on the same page again with World Table Tennis and ITTF in all matters. And we will definitely develop further in the event sector with the help of the World Table Tennis team.
Dainton: World Table Tennis is working together with the DTTB to host the WTT Champions event and have ultimate success. We very much understand markets are quite different and sometimes different approaches need to be made to ensure the sport continues to thrive.
Sörling: A WTT Champions at top level is the best ‘business card’ for all involved in negotiations with further sponsors, TV and other partners. We are finally working on this again hand in hand with the DTTB.