56-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 07, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 56, July 7 - Glenn Tepper Explains the ITTF’s Continental Affiliation Option

“We are one team with a common purpose to develop table tennis.” 

Adham ShararaDuring Adham Sharara’s presidency, a vision has emerged for the ITTF to forge closer relations with the Continental Federations.  Today ITTF Deputy CEO discusses the option for continental federations to affiliate with the ITTF. 

Since you started in your position in 1999, you have worked very hard to create “partnerships” with continents, shall I say?  Can you share with us what your vision was?

Clearly there are 3 main partners in developing our sport, namely the ITTF, Continental Federations and National Associations. Our vision was to actively engage each partner at its appropriate level so that we all work in the same direction for the benefit of our sport. 

Basically the ITTF offers to enter into a “Continental Agreement” with each of the continents.  Can you explain how these are negotiated and what would basically be covered in the agreements?

We started with Oceania as a pilot project in 1999. After 2 years the program was clearly successful.  So we progressively expanded to all continents, initially signing one-year agreements, then 2-year agreements and finally the current 4-year Olympic cycle agreements, which allow for greater planning and security in funding. Initially the finances for the agreements were negotiated but, as we expanded, we needed to introduce a more transparent funding model which includes a formula based on the number of member countries in each continent, and a subjective “needs ratio” of 1.0 to 2.0. For example, Africa has a needs ratio factor of 2.0 while Europe’s needs ratio factor is 1.0.

Over time we saw what worked and what didn’t work.  We also devised a method of determining the best way to ensure that funds were used as intended. Currently we also negotiate with each continent based on their needs.  As such, we have a menu of items that could be included in each agreement.

In the last year of each quadrennial, we have intensive discussions with the Continental Federations to produce the next Continental Development Agreements. 

The Agreements deliver benefits to each continent.  What would the range of benefits be and how do you ascertain that each continent is “maintaining their end” of the Agreement?

There is a wide range of benefits to the continents, both from the marketing side (started in 2009) and the development side (since 1999). Marketing aims to support the key events in each continent, professionalize them, provide equipment and financial support and leave a legacy for both the national federation and the continent. Development works more on the base and middle of the development pyramid and includes Courses (for example, Coach Education, Training Camps, Umpire & Referee seminars, Women’s courses, Para TT courses, etc.), Equipment Packages, Development Officers, World Cadet Challenge assistance and much more, while providing a percentage for the cost of administration of the continental federation. All these are offered on a rotation and needs basis.

The evaluation is based on the percentage of actions completed compared with what is in the agreements, which is very specific. The ITTF even has a development “bonus,” which is calculated using the percentage of completion, the number of Olympic Solidarity Courses (funding from outside the ITTF, which is over US$ 350,000 per year on average) and the number of new member national associations joining the ITTF.

We are very proud of Africa, as an example.  That continent has had 100% completion in every year of the Development Program, despite the difficult circumstances in many countries and the communication challenges. When we started the Development Program, the vast majority of communication was still by fax. 

What organizational efficiency does the ITTF have by structuring itself this way? Could you address, for example, what Continental Presidents do and what the Continental Development Officers do?

This link [DET Staff 2013 document attached] shows our organizational structure in Development and Education. I manage the overall program, while each of the 3 main Development and Education staff (Glenn Tepper, Leandro Olvech and Polona Cehovin Susin) manage 2 continents each. Six Continental Development Officers then do the bulk of the “on the ground” work in the continents, both conducting courses and managing the administration.

Actually for Continental Development Officers, we have 2 different models. In one model, a multi-skilled person manages the administration as well as conducts many courses.  That is the case in Africa, Latin America and Oceania. In the second model, the role is mainly administrative.  That applies to Asia, Europe and North America -- according to the needs of each continent. We then have a team of around 100 Course Conductors who are trained to leave a legacy by multi-tasking during visits.

Continental Presidents have a very important role.  First, they negotiate the Agreement according to the needs of their continent.  Second, they provide leadership and support in the implementation of all elements of the agreement. The Development and Education staff are in very regular contact with Continental Presidents.  The ITTF also has the “Development and Continental Council,” which is made up of the 6 Continental Presidents.  They meet annually with the ITTF Development and Education staff to discuss all matters of common concern. 

Could you acknowledge the various staff members who are working in this area?

One of Adham’s great successes has been in employing a great team of passionate and self-motivated staff. Development and Education is an excellent example of that.  I am very fortunate to have such a great team to work with.

When Adham became president, he made some key appointments. I was appointed to set up the Development Program and the ITTF Coach Accreditation system.  Mikael Andersson was tasked with creating High Performance Coaching and the Global Junior Program. We worked together a lot in the early years, with limited funding and staff right through to now where we have built a strong team working on multiple fronts. Those were important days for the ITTF; they built the foundations for the ITTF’s future success

In 2007 Leandro Olvech joined the ITTF team and had an immediate impact, particularly in the area of his great passion: social projects.

Soon after, Polona Cehovin Susin joined the team and her brand of excellent organizational skills, combined with her very personal approach, saw the ITTF take another step forward.

All the Continental Development Officers and Education staff have also made significant contributions in their own areas and have included:

AFRICA: Babatunde Obisanya [NIG], Roman Plece (ROM), Ahmed Dawlatly [EGY];

ASIA: Afshin Badiee [IRI];

EUROPE: Zita Pidl [HUN], Polona Cehovin Susin [SLO], Lilamani De Soysa [SUI], Nevan Cegnar [CRO];

LATIN AMERICA: Evelio Alvarez [CUB], Ramon Ortega Montes [ESP];

NORTH AMERICA: Dejan Papic [CAN]; and

OCEANIA: Glenn Tepper [AUS], Steve Dainton [AUS], Andrew Hubbard [NZL], Scott Houston [AUS], and Michal Brown [AUS].

We must thank all of them as well as the ITTF’s Competition, Operations and Marketing staff members. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the ITTF’s concept of “continental affiliations?”

The entire concept and structure has now been formalized. In order to access the ITTF funding, the Continental Federation needs to affiliate with the ITTF through a special contractual agreement outlining the obligations, rights and benefits. In the beginning there was some hesitancy regarding continental affiliation, but all those that have signed on have seen the tremendous associated benefits.  We are one team with a common purpose to develop table tennis in the national associations, the continents and worldwide. Oceania, Africa, Latin America and North America signed up within the first two years of this new approach and eventually also signed the formal Affiliation Agreement.  Europe signed and affiliated in October of 2013. Asia has not joined yet. 

Thank you for this very interesting “briefing,” I guess you could call it. I hope that it helps the ITTF family to understand the issue of continental affiliations and agreements more clearly.