Wednesday, 21 September 2011

What does Table Tennis Need to Become a More Professional Sport?

This is my philosophy on what International and Domestic Table Tennis requires to become a more professional sport around the world. In New Zealand particularly we are finding numbers declining in the sport and this was also something that Swedish National Coach Peter Karlsson mentioned in my interview with him. The world is changing and kids have a world of different things they can do in their leisure time, table tennis isn't as attractive as it used to be.

Image Courtesy of Sheffield International Venues

How many aspiring table tennis players have a real long term goal to be in the sport and make it to the very top? How many are willing to sacrifice everything to become a professional table tennis player? Nowhere near as many as in the past. Why? Because the sport lacks financial incentive. What income can you gain for being an internationally successful player? The World Cup of table tennis offers a $50,000 US prize. Think about that compares with tennis. There are athletes and professional sportsmen in table tennis, putting in the same hours of gruelling training and shedding the same sweat on the playing court. Yet a tennis player can cash $50,000 USD for losing in the Round of 16 of a major grandslam and this is equal with our winners cheque for the World Cup?

Essentially you are forced to think of the differences between Tennis and Table Tennis. Tennis has grand slam events, they are high profile, draw people with status and bigger spectator crowds, they get television coverage around the world and of course have higher prize money stakes from big sponsors. That's what table tennis needs. It needs to start small and profile events, try and get the biggest events on television around the world, try and fill seats. It needs to draw people to the sport and show the world how exciting table tennis can be. It was highly followed at the Athens Olympics and is the 2nd most browsed sport online behind football. With a status like that would it be really that difficult to find some bigger sponsors for the major events like the World Championships and the World Cup?

Image Courtesy of Free Paper World News

I firmly believe that Tennis has a successful framework for their competitions and prize structures, if table tennis can follow in the footsteps and work towards achieving that end, then there is an incentive for table tennis players to be professional sportspeople and to give up long term employment objectives from a young age and pursue dreams in the sport. Currently there is little money in table tennis, this has to change for the sport to really take off. Many people around the world are oblivious to the amount of skill which is actually involved in playing our sport, they need to have their eyes opened! It is the role of the ITTF and national table tennis associations to make this happen and it needs to be done for the continuation of our sport in the long term.

4 comments:

  1. I think we can also draw inspiration from tennis players's outfits and their interviewing skills. These are important for the general public - they focus a lot on their sporting gear and outfits - men and women - and giving really good interviews.

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  2. Hey sarah and matt.
    Sarah, yes sporting personalities do increase the profile of the sport.
    But, as Matt points out, at the end of the day, it is all about money.
    With limited money, t.t. is always going to struggle to grow.
    Players need to be able to generate enough income from playing to "make ends meet". Talented table tennis players need to be financially rewarded (or financially assisted) otherwise it is just not feasible for them to make a career out of table tennis.
    The sport needs to increase its profile to generate this income or sponsorship. And as Matt says, this shouldn't be too difficult, as we know ourselves how attractive the game can be to watch and how challenging yet stimulating the sport can be to play.
    Rob

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  3. That's true Sarah but those serve no end unless we can get real publicity and media coverage for the sport. That's part of creating the image for the sport which will draw players to the game once Table Tennis is more attractive in the public arena :)

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  4. Good points Matt. However, you're talking to an audience that already appreciates watching and playing table tennis. Those outside the sport would need quite a bit of convincing to watch it.

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