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

By Sheri Cioroslan | Aug. 18, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

Day 14, August 18 - Rules Chair Rudi Sporrer Believes Changes Improved Sport’s Presentation

“I am convinced that we must sell our product, table tennis, 220 times at the national level.”

Rudi SporrerWhat initially attracted you to our sport?

Originally, I played Basketball and Volleyball. But I was always fascinated by the variability of the game of table tennis. Finally, I was trapped and changed to this charming sport.

How did you then end up in management, as the General Secretary of the Austrian TTA?

When I was a top player on the national level, I graduated from the University and decided to continue with scientific work. Still I assisted some of our Association’s officials just a few hours per week on a voluntary basis. But soon I found out that sports management with its various aspects was most interesting. And this is the reason why I have been doing this work for about 37 years.

It must certainly have been a fun and exciting time for you overseeing Karl Jindrak and Werner Schlager as they had such success as partners in Men’s Doubles, and also for Werner Schlager to be the last European to win the Men’s Singles title at the World Championships in 2003.  Can you share some of the excitement and optimism that were prevailing during that time period?

No doubt that Werner Schlager’s World Champion title in 2003 was also the highlight of my professional career. I will never forget the cheering crowd at the Paris-Bercy stadium and Werner’s very last point that made an Austrian the Men’s World Champion – unimaginable! My feelings were similar toward the European Champion titles of other Austrian players like Liu Jia, Karl Jindrak, Chen Weixing, Daniel Habesohn and Robert Gardos.

Since then your World Champion opened the Werner Schlager Academy in Vienna.  How is that working out?  Is there some connection between it and the Austrian TTA?

The Werner Schlager Academy is an independent enterprise and company. However, we are co-operating wherever possible and our players and coaches are reaping many benefits from this high performance center.

Karl Jindrak, featured on Day 29, of course, has also continued in the sport professionally as the Director of the ITTF’s Competitions Program.  How nice is it to see one of your own athletes progress in the management side of the sport?

I am glad to see that this important branch of the ITTF is managed by a top professional who knows all facets of our sports and its organizational features.

As the Chair of the ITTF Rules Committee, you have had quite a lot of activity during Adham Sharara’s presidency.  Were you initially in favor of the reforms?  What was your approach?

Actually, I cannot remember a single accepted change in rules that I did not support since I was appointed to chair the Rules Committee. Most of the major changes were necessary in terms of the presentation of table tennis, so the progress was only natural.

It seems that you have quite good relations with President Sharara.  Can you comment on the special ties you have with him? 

It is true that we have the same approach towards certain matters (not to mention that we have the same fondness for cakes and other sweets). 

In particular, I highly appreciated his efforts to introduce high-quality standardized table tennis events some 20 years ago. I had the same line of thinking and tried managing the Austrian Open Championships with considerable prize money. Have a look at the ITTF World Tour events – his intention proved to be a full success!

What do you think it will take for TT to move into the TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO?

I am convinced that we must sell our product, table tennis, 220 times at the national level. Each of our 220 member associations of the ITTF has its specific structure, assets and weak points. And the ITTF should provide necessary tools to its members in order to compete with all other sports and leisure activities. 

YES, I believe table tennis can make it – if we respect two guidelines: Never be satisfied with the structural level we already have reached and always be ready for necessary changes.

In your opinion, other than echoing the many comments already written about Adham Sharara in the Countdown series, do you have some unique stories or thoughts about the meaningful contributions Adham Sharara has made to the sport / the ITTF during his presidency?

No question that Adham Sharara is the Mastermind of state-of-the-art table tennis. The remarkable progress of our sports during last 15 years shows his signature. 

Let me just honestly repeat a statement of my friend Marius Vizer, the President of SportAccord, (association of international sports federations): “Adham Sharara is certainly one of the top personalities at the world sports level. His clear view of all aspects of sports, from marketing to technical details, is indeed unbeatable!”