Inside Lines: Hearn puts more ping into pong with new table plan

 

"Ubiquitous" is a word that might have been coined for Barry Hearn. He is everywhere, and into everything.

You name it, he's done it, from boxing to bowls via an assortment of telegenic activities, some of which he has jazzed up and reinvented, others he has simply invented. Now one of the Essex entrepreneur's new year resolutions is to give another sport a makeover. Ping pong. Not table tennis, you'll note. His World Championship of Ping Pong, taking place at London's Alexandra Palace next weekend, promises to be a real blast from the past. Out go the pimpled rubber-and-foam bats – instead 64 international competitors will use ones covered with sandpaper.

"I'd like to take it back to when it was an exciting sport," says Hearn, who will bring on the dancing girls and fanfares in a darts-style revamp for the Sky-screened event. "The foam bat has killed it because it's so spin-orientated and doesn't lend itself to TV. I'm all about what looks good on the box. You can't beat the old bat. You smacked it and it made that lovely noise. You had rallies where you would stand 16 feet behind the table and smash it."

Britain's top player, Andrew Baggaley, says he needed little persuading to swap new bat for old, especially when he learned of a £62,000 prize pot, with £12,000 to the winner. Baggaley, 29, said: "I'm all for bringing a breath of fresh air to the sport."

A fresh whiff of waff, as Boris might say.

Unhappy New Year

Table tennis is among those sports left with little hope of a prosperous new year as a result of the cuts at UK Sport, whose "no compromise" funding policy seems actually more Thatcherite than Dickensian.

"I have never received individual funding, but where is the legacy for the new generation of players?" asks Andrew Baggaley.

One of his predecessors, Matthew Syed, claims that UK Sport have been blinded by the lust for gold. "They have lost the plot," he said. "Socially inclusive inner-city sports like volleyball, handball, basketball and table tennis have been cynically shafted by an organisation that has lavished public money on posh sports such as equestrianism, rowing and sailing. Meanwhile, high-potential children from poorer families, who could never afford elite coaching without public support, are left on the scrapheap."

Question: Why should UK Sport be the sole arbiter of who gets what? Would it not be fairer to have an independent panel making the final assessment on any recommendations?

Tarnished silver

As predicted, it's trebles all round as Sir Brad, Sir Ben, Dame Sarah and virtually the entire cast of 2012 celebrate their honours. But not everyone is joining in, especially in Northern Ireland.

Pointing out it was not only gold which earned gongs (gymnastics silver medallist Louis Smith received an MBE), the Belfast Telegraph asks: "Why not our Coleraine oarsmen Richard and Peter Chambers, who won a silver in one of the most gruelling contests of the entire Olympics? It would have made sense, if nothing else, to keep some parity with the awards to England, Scotland and Wales, in this saga of missed opportunities. Perhaps our competitors were overlooked because we are the United Kingdom's second-class citizens and that people of influence in London and elsewhere could not care less about us."

Boxing's tall story

Among the Christmas publications that came my way was the joint biography of giant world heayyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. When I say it's a tall story, I'm not kidding. It stands 4ft 5in and weighs well over a stone. How did Santa get that one down the chimney?

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee