Table tennis: ITTF opens new Asia-Pacific office, Singapore viewed as an ideal location for its new global home

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) CEO Steve Dainton (right) with businessman Frank Ji at the opening of the ITTF Asia-Pacific office on Jan 3, 2019.
International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) CEO Steve Dainton (right) with businessman Frank Ji at the opening of the ITTF Asia-Pacific office on Jan 3, 2019.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) moved its Asia-Pacific operations to a bigger, swankier Singapore office on Thursday (Jan 3), and its chief executive officer Steve Dainton hinted that the Republic could have a bigger role to play in the future.

With the world governing body due to start a bidding process next month for countries to host the new "Home of Table Tennis", he believes Singapore would "fit well" for the sport's new home.

Its headquarters is currently in Lausanne, Switzerland.

According to Dainton, the attributes that would make a city a good candidate include ease of travel, employment access for foreigners and a good business environment, all of which he feels apply to Singapore.

"Most of our staff are here now so it would definitely fit well; we moved to Singapore in 2011 because we felt it's a very central location with strong legal systems, the travel around the world from Singapore is perfect and it fits from a business environment point of view," Dainton told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the unveiling of its new Apac office at Gateway East on Beach Road.

"Changing the location of our headquarters needs approval at the annual general meeting but, if there was a country or city like Singapore that's ready to work with the ITTF to help us build that dream or ambition, we'll be ready to do that."

The ITTF last month decided at an executive committee meeting to release a bid to find the new "Home of Table Tennis", which will house its headquarters and the sport's International Centre of Excellence.

The "Home of Table Tennis" will be the centre of all things ITTF, with the core of its staff moving there and it will also house all of the organisation's high-performance activities.

The ITTF's Apac office here, which was relocated from Toa Payoh, is already playing a bigger role with secretary-general Raul Calin and commercial staff moving to Singapore.

Describing this move as a "pivotal moment" for the ITTF, Dainton said: "While the previous offices in Singapore have been very functional, we want to upgrade to something a bit more professional and corporate to fit in line with the new vision and more commercial approach that we want for the sport.

"We found it better to have our media, marketing and our competition staff all located in one spot and connected to the commercial business, which is largely centred on Asia."

The Australian also explained that the ITTF had modernised its staffing structure to "try and be less federation-style, and be more commercial style".

He added: "We are a core Olympic sport and have a very historical and long tradition as an international federation (since 1926), but we have to try to adapt in today's world, which is very much about business and commercial success for sport.

"This is the real shift we're trying to make - to go from being not just about rules and governance, but also to be very successful on the commercial side to see how we can merge those two."

Singapore Table Tennis Association president Ellen Lee, who attended Thursday's launch, believes that having the Republic house the "Home of Table Tennis" would bring "a lot of vibrancy to Singapore and to the sport itself".

Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin, who was also present, said: "We know that table tennis is very popular in Singapore, we know that we've tasted success at the Olympic level and there's a lot of news about developing local interest and local-born talent.

"I think if our strategic interests align with the overall interests of the ITTF, we can certainly have that conversation."