Read: The Continent Down Under, ITTF Oceania History 1975-1995 by Ken Wilkinson

ITTF-Oceania is recognised as the continental federation of the Oceania region to the International Table Tennis Federation.

The first steps towards the formation of a continental association began in Melbourne in January 1975 at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships. Two years later the discussion came to fruition, with the OTTF forming on the 1st June 1977. The founding members included Australia, Fiji, Guam, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti. By the end of the year the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) formally recognised the OTTF as the official body controlling continental activities in the Oceania region.

At the establishment of the OTTF, the key principles and aims of the federation were laid out. These priorities included conducting Continental Championships, developing the sport, and to be a united front for representing the zone. From then on, the OTTF went forward with two key objectives in mind; competition and development.

In 1978, the inaugural Oceania Championships were held in Auckland, New Zealand. This flagship event has been a regular fixture on the calendar ever since, with 18 editions taking place up to 2017.
Twenty years later a new addition to the championships was made, with 1998 seeing the introduction of the South Pacific Cup. This event was open solely to athletes from the Pacific Islands, helping to foster a competitive scene in countries where table tennis was developing. The initiative paid dividends and in 2005 led to table tennis’ inclusion as a compulsory sport in the Pacific Games, while para table tennis followed in 2015.

In 2007, the introduction of the Oceania Cup, a key ITTF event, provided the opportunity to broaden OTTF’s reach. The tournament was commercialised with TV broadcast spanning three countries; Fox Sports in Australia, Sky TV in New Zealand and FBC TV in Fiji. It was the first time that an Oceania event had received such coverage and OTTF’s dedication to high standards of event management was later armed with the ITTF-Oceania Cup winning the ITTF Award for Best continental event in 2013.

And while staging tournaments has provided the OTTF with concrete examples of its growth, the continued success of these events lies in the backbone of the federation; continental development. This has been a continued priority and OTTF’s initiatives stand out on the global stage as being the archetypal model.

The introduction of table tennis to the Olympic program in 1988 resulted in an increased level of available funding. With international sporting federations participating in the Olympic Games collecting a share of revenue generated, all Continental Federations, including Oceania, receive a proportion of the proceeds, with OTTF targeting these funds towards development initiatives.

With these additional funds made available, it was at the General Meeting of the OTTF held at the World Championships in Chiba, Japan; May 1991 that led to the creation of the development model which is still familiar today. The meeting concluded to prioritise the following objectives:

  • To create unity with a coaching structure
  • To provide umpiring procedures
  • To identify administration as the foundation on which all objectives will ultimately rest
  • To ensure that adequate standards of equipment are available on each of the member countries, and;
  • To maximise and encourage promotional opportunities.

With these objectives in mind, two volunteer positions were created, one of a development officer to work in the area of coaching/structural development and the other to work on umpiring/technical official accreditation and development. Glenn Tepper and Fran Keyhoe were appointed to these positions respectively.

In 1999, with the support of ITTF and the Oceania National Olympic Committees, a full-time position of Development Officer was created. Glenn Tepper was appointed to this role. That same year a new scheme was set up to distribute equipment throughout the Oceania region. Since 1999, hundreds of tables, thousands of rackets and tens of thousands of balls have been distributed, which has been an effective method of removing any barriers of participation.

The OTTF’s focus on growing the sport in the region also extended to financial assistance to developing nations. In 2001, the OTTF adopted a split fee structure in which the smaller nations would be subsidised, allowing less resistance in getting table tennis established and growing in all Pacific Islands. While more recently ITTF-Oceania has provided attention to promoting table tennis as an inclusive sport, and financial partnerships with national associations were established first in 2014, which has resulted in an increase in para table tennis.

The Smash Down Barriers program was introduced in 2014, as an initiative promoting table tennis to people with disabilities as part of the Australian Aid’s Pacific Sports Partnerships programme delivered in partnership with Table Tennis Australia. The number of para participants has risen to 1300 across five countries in the first three years of its implementation.

With forty years in operation, the invaluable service which many individuals have provided the federation should be taken note of. From Ken Wilkinson of New Zealand who was the longest serving OTTF President, from the federation’s foundation until 1993, to Phil Males who has held the position of Administration Officer for more than two decades. Under the Presidency of Patrick Gillmann, the only Pacific Islander to hold the position of President, a full membership was achieved, as well as a ground- breaking agreement with ITTF towards the financial support of commercialising the ITTF-Oceania Cup.

In 2017, ITTF-Oceania has 24 member associations, having grown from the initial seven who formed the organisation back in 1977.