It is over 16 years ago that the Irish Table Tennis Association (ITTA) first rejected the name of Table Tennis Ireland as proposed by myself. I was more involved with the NGB than I am now. I did my time as ITTA PRO and on what was then called the National Development Committee. I tried in that time to put forward a few ideas to help promote the sport and I felt communicating with the affiliate was an important part of promoting the sport in Ireland. I never got the go ahead to start an “official” website but what the heck I though the sport needed a voice in this country and I first published my own Table Tennis Ireland website at http://www.ttireland.com in 1999.
When due to a bit of frustration and what I saw inequality in the selection of female athletes to represent Ireland and after being involved in the development of the “new strategic plan,” I decided the 10 hour round trip to Dublin was not worth the time and exhaustive amount of energy required to remain as involved.
Just a quick note on the strategy: I did ask to have my name withdrawn from the document, the final draft of the Strategic Plan was as I saw it deeply flawed. The plan was based on the creation of a number of new positions who would oversee the development in their particular areas.
At first glance this seems like a sensible idea, however when examined a little closer it was obvious (to me) that as we had identified one of the main issues as being the lack of identifying and encouraging individuals with a high enough level of knowledge and experience to fulfill the roles that the original National Governing Body (NGB) had and that in my opinion creating more positions would just lead to a further exacerbation of those problems and by providing sub-committees who would be responsible for the development of important areas that could not function properly I felt under those circumstances the ITTA would be unable to function in either an effective or efficient manner, which was the whole purpose of going through the development strategy process.
So on my withdraw to concentrate on what I could contribute to, West Cork, I once again offered, this time at an ITTA AGM, the use of the name Table Tennis Ireland, by this time the site had been up and running and as it was the only reliable source of information on what was going on in the sport in Ireland I felt it would be better served by being used by the ITTA. However it was once again rejected. I decided rather than stop what I had started I would continue to post articles on the sport as well as further develop our own West Cork TTA side of things.
I do admit I did include reports on the website to the NGB during my time as ITTA PRO as I felt the site was relevant and even though the ITTA had no editorial input or control over the site I did on occasion take on board suggestions made at those meetings. I had a fairly open policy when it came to articles sent in by others involved in the sport, I felt that it was a positive thing to encourage dialogue between members, some of these were critical of the ITTA but I tried to reply in order to address any concerns and all in all I think it was a positive thing. However I did remove the forum after some offensive personal comments were made after a suggestion made at an ITTA meeting.
Without any promotion as an “official” site the ITTF, ETTA and even the Irish Sports Council posted links to the Table Tennis Ireland website and I did write to those organisations stating the site was unofficial, however until the ITTA published their own http://www.irishtabletennis.com website the links remained.
Over the years the website has gone through various changes and the emphasis became more and more towards our own province of Munster and with the development of the http://www.munstertabletennis.weebly.com site by Tony Higgins in 2012, the emphasis changed once again to focus on West Cork.
Over the years Table Tennis Ireland has published a number of articles on coaching and development on the sport as well as general observations. I take pride in the fact that a number of these articles have been republished by some well known sports website and I have even been paid for some of these! I am delighted that Table Tennis Ireland has developed a solid reputation over the years with over 500,000 hits from all over the world. In the last couple of years I have been working on developing a more mobile friendly website and I have experimented with more use of social media. Earlier this year I was going to launch this site, the new Table Tennis Ireland website which I feel has a much more accessible format especially when using a smart phone, which I believe, will become more and more the main way people will access the internet.
After discovering that the ITTA were considering changing their name officially to Table Tennis Ireland I decided to hold off on the launch. I have not transferred the http://www.ttitlreland.com domain name to the new site http://www.ttireland.wordpress.com . I had possibly naively thought that someone within the ITTA would be in contact with me asking for the use of my name, but I eventually sent an email to the Secretary saying “hold on, changing your name to my name without asking is annoying.” I did get a rather curt reply telling me that they had decided to change their name officially and their Branches and Members had been informed that they were changing their name but that was all. No request and certainly no apology! I have written back to the ITTA just to let them know that they should carefully consider their position and at the very least inform their members at the AGM that there is a previous claim on the rights to this name.
After a little research on whois I discovered that in September 2014 the ITTA registered the name http://www.irishtabletennis.com I thought it had been going longer than that and on the 29th January 2015 they registered the name http://www.tabletennisireland.ie
After taking some advice as far as I understand it, my rights are protected under Irish Trademark Common Law and some act of 1996. There is some European legislation in regards to internet publishing rights and within copyright law as well. I just have to take them to a commercial court and show a couple of things which isn’t really a problem in itself.
However do I really want to? I am a member of the ITTA; I have been actively involved for over 25 years. I have sat on the board in a position to promote the sport and to develop the sport in Ireland. I have held nearly every position on the Munster Branch over the years trying to do the same. For some unknown reason I love this sport and believe in it passionately. I don’t want to take the ITTA to court and I don’t want the ITTA to waste our money doing so!
I do want to be asked however and what do I do about my site? What do I do about having the name Table Tennis Ireland attached to my articles? What do I do about having the name Table Tennis Ireland emblazoned on our tracksuits and shirts? We have the name on trophies, pamphlets and promotional material what happens about that?
I feel like I am being bullied by the very organisation I set out to help, I am sure someone on the ITTA must remember that I publish a site called Table Tennis Ireland, it is one thing to be unappreciated and another to be totally blanked, did they just think we will ignore Owen and hope he will go away?
I don’t really want to think about it, I withdrew from being involved on a national level due to what I saw as at best weird decisions. Last year my son decided to withdraw from the National Squad as even though he appeared to jump through every hoop put forward he still felt ignored and under-appreciated. This season we took it upon ourselves to take our players away for events, we had a very successful Cardiff Open with both Mair and James reaching the finals in their age groups and the IYC in Belgium was great, so I am glad to see my players with big smiles on their faces rather than the depression of last season.
This season as an “outsider” I have heard the frustration of other players and their parents and even threats of legal action over selections! I am just glad that I didn’t travel that path and get all stressed out again. The situation over the National Coach also being the Ulster Coach is extraordinary and the level of morale in the sport in general has got to be at one of its lowest levels for some years.
I am sure the board is delighted with Ulster’s progress, it is well represented at all levels of the sport and with the extra funding it enjoys it is about time it began to pull away, I am only surprised it has taken this long. With the withdrawal of provincial affiliation Munster has been effectively hamstrung and I presume the other two provinces have a similar situation. I don’t know the details in Connaught but I did see they had an EGM this season and Munster only narrowly avoided that after being requested to “hang on” and try and sequester some personnel on to the branch to see the season out.
Well I only wrote this article as a way of venting my disappointment with the ITTA, I am hurt and I am not sure I feel any better for it. I do hope the phone rings and someone has the manners to ask me about using Table Tennis Ireland as their new name, I can well understand why they want a new image and the name Table Tennis Ireland does still have a good reputation, how long that is maintained will probably be up to the ITTA Ltd.