ITTF mulls cancelling individual World Championships

The ITTF has decided to suspend all activities until at least the end of June due to the coronavirus pandemic with team events in Busan moved to September.

The ITTF has recently announced paycuts among its staff including its president. (Representative Image)

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Chief Executive Steve Dainton revealed on Sunday that the sport's governing body is considering individual World Championships’ cancellation.

The move is relevant to a possible busy schedule in the future as the newly-established World Table Tennis (WTT) plans to have 3 to 4 “Grand Smashes” every year, reported Xinhua news agency.

“These events (Grand Smashes) will be equal to or larger than a World Individual Championships. With 3 to 4 ‘Grand Smashes’ per year, we would be overstretching and confusing the calendar and market if we also have a World Individual Championships,” Dainton wrote in his letter, called “A message of hope”, to all table tennis stakeholders.

“The 3 to 4 major events held on the International stage throughout each year will reach a larger audience and will perform much better than once every 2 years. From these events, we would also be able to define an individual world champion,” he added.

Starting in 2003, individual events for table tennis World Championships have been held in odd years, and team events in even years.

The ITTF announced in March that the WTT will introduce a brand new event structure in 2021. As planned, there are up to four Grand Smashes every year with a 10-day schedule for each tournament, featuring the top 64 men and top 64 women players.

Also in the structure are WTT Champions Series, WTT Cup Finals, the Star Contender and Contender Series.

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For Dainton, “this approach would allow for a clearer line to be drawn for each of the platforms.”

“The World Team Championships and the Olympic Games, with the team competition as a key component, will remain under the responsibility of the federations, while the professional platform can focus on the growth of the individual events, allowing our sport to pursue the real table tennis stars in the future,” he said.

The ITTF has decided to suspend all activities until at least the end of June due to the coronavirus pandemic. The World Team Championships 2020, to be held in South Korea’s Busan, have been postponed for a second time to between late September and early October.

“These are very hard days, but this also gives us an immense opportunity. This crisis places us in an unprecedented situation where we can reflect and work on all the areas that we know have been underperforming, needed to change and adapt,” said Dainton.

As the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games have been postponed to 2021, the ITTF is constantly checking the 2020 and 2021 calendar to try to integrate the ITTF events and also to assess the impact on the continental events, national events, national leagues and some others.

“At this stage, we expect that only by 2022 will we see some normality return to our calendars,” Dainton noted. The ITTF President and staff have agreed on their salary cuts to help the sport during the challenging times.

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“Despite some tough sacrifices needed, we will ensure that the ITTF survives this difficult period,” said Dainton.

For Dainton, other measures that will help the sport when the crisis is over include: ensuring that international table tennis events are significantly improved, putting athletes and fans more at the heart of the sport, and redefining the Development and High Performance pathways.

“We are trying to ensure that we make this moment as positive as we possibly can, given the current circumstances,” he wrote.