Table tennis: ITTF partners Sportsmaster to introduce professional tournament structure

(From left to right) Frank Ji, Sportsmaster Founder, Thomas Weikert, ITTF President and Steve Dainton, ITTF CEO, posing for a picture after signing an agreement to set up a new professional table tennis platform for tournaments.
(From left to right) Frank Ji, Sportsmaster Founder, Thomas Weikert, ITTF President and Steve Dainton, ITTF CEO, posing for a picture after signing an agreement to set up a new professional table tennis platform for tournaments.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) signed an agreement with sports marketing agency Sportsmaster on Monday (July 2) to set up a new professional platform for tournaments from 2021.

The new professional platform will include the existing World Tour, Challenge Series, the Veterans Tour, the T2APAC League and the Table Tennis X - a new time-based format introduced in 2016 - with the aim of raising the players' profiles globally and to increase the amount of prize money.

Changes to tournament rules, to attract more fans and commercial interests, are also possible from 2021.

As part of the deal, T2APAC - whose parent company is Sportsmaster - will be granted rights to arrange Diamond-level events in 2019 and 2020 to test the feasibility of new initiatives, including new gameplay formats, ball-track technology and broadcast innovations.

ITTF president Thomas Weikert said: "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."

ITTF CEO Steve Dainton added: "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 product to really transform table tennis into one of the leading sports globally."

Other elements, such as World Championships, global junior programme and para-table tennis remain under the ITTF - or institutional - platform under the new structure in 2021. Tournaments in both the professional and institutional platforms will be connected to the world ranking system, as well as the Olympic qualifying system.