Table Tennis: Survival is name of the game

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND look almost certain to make themselves safe in the Super Division of the European League for another season during their match against the Netherlands at St Austell tonight. This should give a double cause for celebration: the chance to introduce 17-year-old Alex Perry into the limelight for the first time, and the likelihood of saving a large sum of sponsorship money.

Survival in the top bracket could be worth anything between pounds 12,000 and pounds 18,000 a season to the English Table Tennis Association, during an economic period when finances can be a problem for developing sports. With a 4-0 lead from their fine performance in the first leg, England should complete the job quickly in Cornwall.

However, there could be other issues at stake. Alan Cooke, included in the quartet tonight, has been omitted from the trio to play for England in the European Nations Cup in Karlsruhe on Friday. He may therefore need a strong performance to remain central to England's plans, particularly if the body of opinion that Desmond Douglas should make an international comeback continues to grow.

Douglas, despite his 37 years, was impressive in winning the Cleveland Five-Star International Open title on Sunday and the new 'fast glue' ban, imposed for health reasons, is likely to be helpful to players of his type who do not rely on quick attacks. It emerged that a dozen players during the Cleveland event had been asked to strip down their blades and either use different bats or use glue provided by the organisers.

Many of these incidents have been caused by continued confusion over how the ban should be administered. On Saturday a glue said to be safe by the International Table Tennis Federation was banned by the English Table Tennis Association. A list of safe glues or a ban on all but self-adhesive rubbers is urgently needed.