Rule Changes in Table Tennis

A brief disclaimer – the facts and views presented
in the following program may have been distorted for parody purposes. If you want the complete,
100 per cent factual truth, just go on any table tennis forum and ask! Now on with the
show. Welcome to tonight’s episode of Sports Interrogation. Our guest is Adham Sharara,
who was president of the ITTF from 1999 to 2014. We will be discussing the rule changes
introduced during his time as President. Welcome to the show Adham.Thanks Lucy. Glad to be here. Before we start talking about the rule changes you introduced, can you give us an
idea of what the table tennis world was like when you became President in 1999? Sure thing.
Back then, table tennis was struggling to get on TV around the world. The sport was
getting too fast due to equipment technology, and rallies were almost non-existent, with
the average rally being around 3 shots. Power loopers were dominating the sport, while other
styles were struggling to survive. The ITTF had tried to slow down the sport by banning
speed glue a few years earlier, but the professional players revolted, which forced us to revoke
the ban. Sounds pretty bad. So what did you do about it? With the overwhelming dominance
of speed glued power looping in the sport, the first step was obvious. In 1999, we changed
the pips-out aspect ratio rules in order to make the current world champions pips-out
rubber illegal. Sorry, you did what? Well, we couldn’t have a penhold short pip hitter
beating all those other power loopers, could we? How could we justify banning speed glue
if a pips player was the best player in the world? We had to make sure that all the top
players used inverted rubbers with speed glue before we could make our move. Ah, that makes
sense. And then what did you do? After the last speed glue ban debacle, we decided to
give that a rest for a while and take a different approach to slowing down the sport.
We figured if we couldn’t get rid of the speed glue, we’d make the ball bigger. That reduced
the speed and spin that players could produce. We pushed that change through in 2000. And
made millions of existing table tennis balls obsolete as well, forcing players to buy new
expensive bigger balls. Yes, that was definitely a bonus for our equipment manufacturers. And
was this a popular change with ordinary players around the world? I don’t know. We never asked.
We don’t really care about ordinary players, we look after professional table tennis. Ordinary
players can play table tennis however they like, as far as we are concerned. What do you
say, table tennis fans? Was this change to a bigger ball a good idea? And you made some
other important changes at around the same time? Yes. In 2001 we introduced 11 point games
instead of the old 21 point games that had been around for over a hundred years. Why was
that? Well, we wanted to get more table tennis on
TV, and we figured we needed to shorten each game so that TV stations could get more advertising
breaks. And did that work? It was better but still not enough. So we did some brainstorming
and decided to add a 1 minute timeout for each player per match. That’s an extra 2 minutes
of ad revenue right there! So was this good for the players? It was good
for the TV advertisers, so we figured it would be good for our advertising revenue, and thus
good for the professional players who get paid out of that revenue. And was it good for
the ordinary players? I don’t know. We never asked. We only care about the professional
players, the ordinary players……can do whatever they like. I get the picture. I believe
in 2002 you also banned hidden serves? Yes. Hidden serves were making it too hard for
the receiver to return the ball well, so rallies were too short. This obviously wasn’t good
for TV – we want to show long exciting rallies, not serve return mistakes and third ball kills. And
did that work? I’ll be honest Lucy, this wasn’t one of our great successes. It’s now 2015
and we still haven’t come up with a set of rules that make it easy for umpires to call
hidden serves.Why not? We’ve had other priorities that were more important. Such as? In 2006 we
banned frictionless long pips. Why? Was that a problem at the professional level? Was it
ruining the sport for TV? No, none of the pros used frictionless long pips. Only recreational
players used them. Hang on a second. Don’t you only care about the professional players?
Why did you suddenly interfere with ordinary players this time? It was making life hard
for our up and coming power loopers. Where were we going to get the next generation of
pros from if they all quit the sport after losing to old, unfit players using frictionless
long pips? You gotta think ahead Lucy. Gotcha. Getting back to slowing
the sport down, I’m guessing that after all your rule changes in the early 2000’s, the
equipment manufacturers came out with new rubbers and blades that were even faster,
spinnier and more expensive? Right. So within a few years, the speed and spin of table tennis
was basically back to where you started? I’m afraid so.
But with more expensive equipment. Yeah, at least that’s a silver lining for us. Gotta
love those licencing fees! So what did you do next? In 2008 we decided
it was time to slow down the sport by banning speed glue again. Last time you did that in
the 1990’s you had a professional player revolt. How did you stop that from happening this
time? This time we said it was for health reasons – all those nasty VOC’s in speed glue and
boosters, you know. But didn’t the equipment manufacturers start making VOC free speed
glue and boosters? Yeah, the ungrateful bastards. We’d helped them out with the bigger ball,
you would think they could have returned the favour. But it all turned out allright in
the end. How so? The ITTF and the equipment manufacturers all got together and worked
out a plan to solve things. What was this plan? We figured that players had discovered that you
could use cheap products like baby oil to boost rubbers, so equipment manufacturers
weren’t getting much money from sales of speed glue and boosters anyway. So we banned all the
speed glues and boosters, except for those applied at the factory. That way the pros
got their boosted rubbers, while ordinary players who weren’t cheats had to buy new
rubbers when the speed glue effect wore off after a few weeks. And for those tight arses
who insisted on using cheap illegal boosters, we decided to create rules that weren’t enforceable
to avoid catching them. So everybody wins? Yep. Except the ordinary player who doesn’t cheat.
They kind of get screwed with their pants on. But as you know…The ITTF only cares
about professional players? You catch on fast girlfriend. So has all this slowed down the
sport at all? No, since the pros still have their factory tuned rubbers, and the ordinary
players who cheat still don’t get caught. So we came up with a brand new plan.
And this plan is? We decided to introduce an even bigger ball. And just to add insult
to injury, we also decided to stop using celluloid balls, which were a fire hazard. And there
was going to be a worldwide celloloid shortage. Really? Says who? Says us! What, don’t you trust us? Hang
on a minute, the previous bigger ball was 40mm, and the new plastic ball is also 40mm.
So aren’t they exactly the same size? Ha. Gotcha! In fact, the old bigger ball averaged around
39.6mm, while the new bigger ball must be over 40mm, so although they are both 40mm
they are different sizes. You see? It makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard
tonight. Have there been any problems with the new plastic balls?
Just a few. Many of the new plastic balls aren’t round, they go soft quickly, and break faster. And
they are more expensive than the old celluloid balls? Now you are getting the hang of it! Any
other problems? Well, there has been a bit of a shortage of the new plastic balls, since
millions of players around the world have been trying to buy them. Let me get this straight.
Since you were worried about a shortage of celluloid balls, you replaced them with plastic
balls, but now there is a shortage of plastic balls? Yeah, gets you right in the feels, doesn’t
it? One final quick question. After all these changes, is table tennis any
more popular on TV than before? No. Although we do very well at the Olympics, we are one
of the most watched sports there. So after all these changes, we basically get some table
tennis on TV every 4 years? That’s right. Yay for us! Thank you Adham
– I think we all now know what the F in in ITTF stands for – FAIL. See you all next week
on Sports Interrogation when our subject will be sandbagging in table tennis – why is it
that America is the only country that thinks being the best of the worst is better than
being the worst of the best? Good night.

3 thoughts on “Rule Changes in Table Tennis

  1. if they really wanted to make it slower… just increase hight of the net
    -less power shots (less speed)
    -more spin based (better curve upper the net)
    -more styles will go out on high level
    -longer rallies
    -manufactuers will not earn more money

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