Welcome to the first edition of LONDON PING, a radical voice of table tennis in the Capital. Free from the usual staid, bureaucratic routines of the governing body, and free also from the unwritten constraints of the sponsors’ commercial interests.

LONDON PING is able to offer a combative interpretation of table tennis in Greater London and beyond. (Short replies will be considered for publication).

This edition of LONDON PING takes us to Fusion Table Tennis Club, nestled unobtrusively between the Millwall Football Stadium and the Lime Bikes headquarters.  Fusion should be congratulated, because under the inexhaustible and unflappable guidance of John Dennison and Co, they have created, in their mega-spacious industrial warehouse, their very own South London table tennis den. And what a wonderful den it is.

I was there to watch Fusion’s senior Premier League team take on the encyclopedic Table Tennis Daily, an online entity that has, it seems, morphed into a real life, flesh and blood, table tennis team. I was made very welcome on what was my first visit to Fusion TTC, by two old London table tennis stalwarts, Clive Carthy and Martin Smith. Thank you guys.

It proved to be a sparkling afternoon of table tennis, with the Trumpauskas father and son combination, Lorestas and Larry, being the standout stars. In the opposition corner it was wonderful to see ex-London Progress highflyer, Umair Mauthoor in scintillating form. Non-playing appearances by another former London Progress combatant, Garth Kinlocke, and Table Tennis Daily Chairman, Peter Ives, was an added bonus. On this occasion, Fusion came out 5-2 winners, but all seven matches were fiercely contested  and any impartial observer would surely concede that the final result could have gone either way.

One very distinguishing feature of Fusion TTC is their requirement to share their giant warehouse premises with a local basketball club. And as chance would have it, there was a full-scale competitive basketball match unfolding just behind the partition wall – a match complete with raucous cheering and the mandatory super loud hooter. My initial response was to wonder how on earth some of Britain’s leading pingers could ever compete under such conditions. But compete they did. Not only did the basketball commotion not interfere with the high level SBL match, it actually enhanced the atmosphere.  When the cheering eventually subsided, I  found myself missing the background sporting hullabaloo. Strange.

All in all, a most satisfactory first visit to Fusion TTC, a club LONDON PING is certain to visit again. To give an indication of just how engaged this club is, no sooner had the British League match concluded, the club organisers sprung into action reconfiguring the hall in preparation  for an evening  junior practice session. Impressive.

Full marks too for Table Tennis England for filming all SBL Premier matches and downloading them for general viewing. Positive as this development is, it does not address the difficulty that clubs have in getting bums on seats at these high level matches. I went to one SBL match last season where there were just four spectators, and I was one of them. But I know how difficult it is, because I wrestled with the problem for twenty years.

One solution is to create a whole day of British League matches, where cadets, juniors, women and men all compete, with each game being of equal value. At the end of the season, there would be the normal winners for each category, but more significantly, there would be an overall ‘club winner’. It would be a win-win situation, whereby clubs would be encouraged to develop across the board whilst at the same time creating an all-day crowd of players, parents and supporters. Yes, it would require a radical reorganisation, but dire situations require radical solutions.

November’s  edition of LONDON PING  will shift to North London, where the London Academy will host the first two rounds of the National Cadet League. Based on previous seasons, it will be a great showcase of  competitive cadet table tennis, organised as always with enthusiasm and precision by Eamon Brennan and Bhavin Savjani. See you there – November 5th.