Ji's T2 forges closer ties with ITTF World Tour
Frank Ji, the Chinese entrepreneur, has tightened his grip on international table tennis, after the T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League that he bankrolled teamed up with the ITTF World Tour, the season-long series of tournaments, of which his Seamaster shipping company is the title sponsor.
Under the terms of a "collaboration agreement" announced today, the ITTF World Tour and T2 Asia & Pacific Table Tennis League will work together to "grow both properties for the betterment of global table tennis."
Ji, founder and chairman of T2, and chairman of Seamaster, said: “My goal is to create an environment where our table tennis players are adored and loved by millions across the world and not just by table tennis fans. An environment that would attract more media attention, more TV broadcasters, more fans and more money into the sport. I want table tennis to be one of the biggest sports in the world, and have our players become rich and famous! This is why I created the T2 league and sponsored the ITTF World Tour.
“I see many synergies between the two properties, which is why this collaboration makes sense, so ITTF and T2 can work more closely together and achieve my goal of table tennis being a flourishing commercial sport.”
The collaboration will involve the ITTF World Tour incorporating certain elements from T2, such as using multiple balls during matches, increased player promotion, player contracts and broadcast innovations.
T2, which debuted last year with a $1.5 million prize pot, will essentially become a 'laboratory' for the ITTF, the sport's governing body, whereby the ITTF will test innovations such as ball tracking spin and speed, as well as the challenge system.
Thomas Weikert (pictured with Ji), president of the ITTF, said: “We are very happy to have people like Frank Ji in our sport, we need more passion, more ideas and more energy. With Mr Frank Ji on board, we have been able to innovate and develop the 2017 ITTF World Tour, which resulted in record prize money, record TV viewership and record TV interest.
“2018 is an important year for the ITTF, so we are looking forward to the collaboration, which will assist the ITTF to take the ITTF World Tour to new heights.”
In October, Weikert appointed Ji as his special adviser on commercial matters.
Seamaster became title sponsor of the season-long World Tour in January 2017 in a four-year agreement.
A month later, Seamaster acquired all commercial rights to Table Tennis X, a new form of the sport launched by the ITTF in 2016.
TTX features a larger, heavier ball and simplified rackets which create less spin. Matches are played across three sets of two minutes (instead of the traditional first to 11 format), and the game features ‘winners’ and ‘wildcards’ for players to score extra points.