The ETTA has been pro-active over many years in developing strategies to encourage more women and girls to not only take up our sport but also to continue playing. With the dawn of the 21st century and our modern society more ideas and programmes are being developed to tackle the problem of fewer women and girls participating in the sport, and the dropout rate of girls aged between 15 and 18 years.

In 2004 the ETTA carried out a survey amongst female league players to find out what they liked about the sport, what the ETTA could change to make the sport better for women and what could be introduced to keep girls playing table tennis. As a result the following were identified as the negatives to table tennis:

  • Many facilities are not ‘women friendly’ with a lack of changing rooms, poor toilet facilities some clubs do not have access to female toilets and players have to use the men’s toilets!!
  • Not enough female coaches.
  • Girls feel intimidated by boys when they first start to play table tennis.
  • Long matches and late finishes which can also lead to late night journeys home in bad weather.
  • Lack of specialist table tennis clothing designed for women and girls available for sale in England.
  • Cold playing halls with matches played in silence.

The positives that were identified included:

  • An indoor sport which does not require participants getting wet and muddy.
  • Low injury sport.
  • Good for increasing fitness.
  • Many competitive opportunities.
  • Sport for life many members start playing aged 6 or 7 and are still playing into their 70s and 80s.
The lack of women and girls is not unique to table tennis the same issues are reflected across many sports, although some have a lesser problem as they are perceived as being a higher profile female sport i.e. tennis, athletics and netball. This may be partially due to the greater awareness through TV coverage of major events so that girls and women see their role models as household names e.g. Venus and Serena Williams, Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes. According to surveys the problem is reflected across the whole of Western Europe.


  • The  ETTA have set up a Womens Working Group chaired by Val Murdoch who also sits on the ITTF Womens Working Group with the ETTA’s lead officer for Diversity
  • The Group are looking to host a Womens Conference linked to the English Open in January 2011
  • Building on a successful project held in Brighton to set up an online toolkit of case studies and examples of good practice
  • Using the new Outdoor Tables, Ping London and Change for Life initiatives to boost the numbers of women and girls participating


The International Table Tennis Federation held the first ever Women’s Forum at the last World Championships in Paris where members, under the motto ‘Rallying for Change’, looked at:

• How to get more young women into table tennis and how to keep them there.
• How to educate more female coaches.
• How to encourage female players to stay in the world of table tennis when their career is over.
• How to educate women to take on representative positions at a regional, national and international level.
• How to market women’s table tennis, and improve presentation, clothing and TV and media exposure.
• To ensure the ‘Rallying for Change’ would not stop in Paris, the Women’s Forum adopted and presented 4 main recommendations:

1. That the ITTF and its member federations try to achieve the IOC target of 20% women in decision making positions by 2005. This is to be regarded as one step on the road. It was proposed that the ITTF should exceed the 20% in order to be a role model for other sports federations.
2. That the ITTF dedicate resources and positions for the development programme to women and try to motivate national associations to encourage and increase women; participation within the Olympic Solidarity Courses as well as ITTF devel opment courses for coaching, officiatng and administration.
3. That the ITTF establish a Working Group on Women and Sport to over see the implementation of opportunities for girls and women to increase participation and leadership in table tennis.
4. The Working Group should take into consideration and develop all other i deas, recommendations and propositions issued from the forum in Paris.

It is good to see that the ITTF are also looking at the same problems with retaining and recruiting women and girls in table tennis as the ETTA and have announced clear targets for the federation to achieve. Following the forum Adam Sharara, the President of the ITTF, issued the following statement:

‘We took the first important step by ensuring a position for one woman in the Executive Committee. If the Women’s forum recommends it, we might be ready to impose quotas for elections within the ITTF.

However, in the long run, I am not sure that I am in favour of quotas. I would like women to be elected for the deciding bodies of the ITTF because they are better qualified than the men they are running against, and not because they are protected. That would weaken their positions. That the ITTF has to do is to draw up plans that will educate and train women and ensure that there are enough qualified women to run for these positions. I support that we go for 20% – why not go for even more.

We are ready to give all the support necessary but things have to come from you.’

There are lots of ways the ETTA members can encourage more women and girls to, not only take up the sport, but also stay in the sport and we would be interested to hear about any success stories.

There are no quick fixes but working with our partners including Womens Sport and Fitness Foundation and our members we hope to make a difference over the period of the Current Whole Sport Plan.

Please feel free to contact the Development Department with your comments and suggestions