Quensbury rules when it comes to table tennis

Feature on English Table Tennis Association, Queensbury House, Hastings.'Richard Yule.
Feature on English Table Tennis Association, Queensbury House, Hastings.'Richard Yule.

AN AGEING building in Hastings town centre may look like any ordinary high rise office block.

But situated on the fourth floor is the nerve centre of one of the UK’s biggest participation sports.

Sol Buckner takes a closer look at one of the least known well known head offices in our region.

FOR the last 30 years, Queensbury House in Havelock Road has been the nerve centre for the English Table Tennis Association.

The ETTA moved down to Hastings from London at the request of local businessman Charles Wyles, who was then running the association.

Originally based in Claremont for a few years in the 70s, the head office moved to the high rise office block around the end of the 70s.

The International Table Tennis Federation had its own headquarters in London Road, St Leonards until it moved to Lausanne in Switzerland in 1998.

Richard Yule has been the ETTA chief executive since 1995. He has overseen the growth and expansion of the association as a business.

When he first arrived, the office was staffed by just a dozen people with a small turnover.

Today the association boasts a turnover of £4 million and a healthy membership.

Richard, who will retire in May, is a former Scottish international who represented his country 285 times.

He has seen the association’s growth from a small organisation to a turnover of £4 million a year employing more than 20 staff.

In the last year, he has overseen a recent project called PING!

Funded by Sport England, the £250,000 scheme involved installing 50 tables in nine towns and cities across England in a bid to boost participation.

Richard said: “Hastings is a very important part of our organisation.

“It has a very strong league and has provided a number of national champions and very good administrators.

“The sport is enjoying a period of revival and is only one of a handful that has shown an increase in recent years.

“It is only one of six sports that has more than 200 countries signed up to its world governing body.

“The PING! project has been very successful and I am leaving the it in a very healthy state.

“We have a heightened awareness of the sport now and even have tables in parks and gardens outdoors so everyone can have a go.

“There are even some tables that have gone into nightclubs.”

Local girl Yolanda King is one of those benefitting from support from the ETTA in the early stages of her career.

The 17-year-old is now ranked seventh in the country and has her eyes fixed on making the Team GB squad for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

As a junior she was given coaching by the ETTA at the England training camps in Sheffield where there is a purpose built indoor centre.

Yolanda, who is studying at the Table Tennis Academy at Grantham College, said: “I had a lot of chances to compete in England through the ETTA.

“When I was a junior I got help through their junior training camps.

“I don’t think a lot of local people know that the ETTA is based in Hastings. But I know more people are playing the sport now which is a good thing.”

The Queensbury Road office block is set to close in the near future and talks are on going about where the ETTA will move to.

The ETTA and one other business are currently located in the building.

A new development of modern, new office buildings has been earmarked for the location.

Richard says he is leaving the sport in a healthy state but has one regret.

He added: “I am sorry that we never managed to establish a dedicated table tennis centre in Hastings. We tried to get one at Horntye Park but it never came off.

“But I am pleased to see the sport in such a healthy state and I am sure it is now in very good hands.”