Tributes have been paid to a “dear friend and colleague” Keith Thomas, the last Table Tennis England Treasurer and a huge influence on the sport in Cleveland, who has died at the age of 74.
Keith was made a Vice President of Table Tennis England in 2018 and an Honorary Life Member in 2020 in recognition of his service to the sport.
Keith’s funeral service is on Thursday August 17 at St Luke’s Church, Tunstall Avenue, Hartlepool, TS26 8NF (11am), followed by committal at Stranton Grange Crematorium, Tanfield Road, Hartlepool, TS25 5DD at 12pm. At Keith’s request, please no black to be worn. Afterwards at Golden Lion, Dunstan Road, Hartlepool, TS26 0EN.
The latter award came after his service as the ETTA/Table Tennis England Treasurer ended in 2019 when the post was deleted from the Association.
He had held that post from 2013-19 but his contribution to the sport far outstripped that role and reflected not only his status in the area of finance and accountancy but also as a UKCC Level 3 Coach Tutor and Assessor and other areas of the sport – he was also a Level 1 (County) Umpire and a Level 1 Tournament Organiser.
Among the positions held over the years were Board representative on the British League Committee, Coaching & Performance Focus Group member, Competitions Review Group member, Finance Committee Chairman, Membership Committee member and Major Events Feasibility Committee member.
On the international stage, he was a member of the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) Audit Commission in 2018. He also played a key role as a Volunteer Team Leader at the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
In his native Cleveland, he was on the Management Committee for Cleveland TTA and, from 2013-14, was Company Member for the Cleveland Premier TTL.
In his hometown of Hartlepool, he was Vice Chairman of Hartlepool TTL and a founder member, Treasurer and first Chairman of Hartlepool TTC.
Alan Ransome OBE, from Ormesby TTC in Middlesbrough, was a close friend and colleague of Keith for some 60 years and writes the following: “Keith Thomas’ involvement in table tennis was strong since his early teens. He was a member of St Joseph’s Club in Hartlepool and was practising regularly with Paul Freeman who was one of the leading juniors.
“Another player to come from that club was George Sharp who was strong in the Durham County team and became a top-class cricketer and umpire.
“Keith was very prominent in Hartlepool around 20 years ago when he started the Hartlepool Club at St Hilda’s, which was a very prominent club in the North East. (Nationally ranked players) Joe and Jack Cope, now Ferguson, both emerged from that club.
“The club was prominent in the British League, hosting weekends, and held a Chinese exchange which brought some very good players into the North East, together with their trips to China.
“Keith was an all-rounder in terms of table tennis. He was a coach assessor and was also strong on the umpiring side. He was a member of the Cleveland County Management Committee and was Manager of the Cleveland County Junior Squad for many years as well as being County Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee.
“He was heavily involved in the London Olympics and Paralympics, working closely with Richard Scruton. Keith was also very significant in Hartlepool within their Town Sports Committee.
“From a professional point of view, he was a highly qualified accountant and represented the North East Accounting Association on some national committees and travelled regularly to London to attend their meetings.
“Keith for the whole of his life was a real table tennis enthusiast and did his best to help table tennis in Hartlepool and Cleveland and, of course, with his time as Treasurer for Table Tennis England.”
Table Tennis England Chair Sandra Deaton said: “It is with extreme sadness that we learnt of the passing of Keith Thomas. I first met Keith at the 2012 London Olympics and he became a very dear and close friend.
“In 2012 we discussed the opportunity to stand together as part of the team for the 2013 ETTA elections as Chair and Treasurer. Illness prevented me from putting myself forward, but Keith was duly elected as Treasurer with Andy Seaward as Chair and Richard Scruton as Deputy. Once I recovered, I subsequently went on to be elected as chair with Keith alongside me as the ETTA treasurer.
“Keith was a highly intelligent man, extremely qualified in accountancy with a kind, gentle and caring disposition. He was totally dedicated to table tennis within many different functions – coaching, tutoring, club development and administration.
“His national service to the sport as Treasurer was outstanding as he helped to deliver the required governance changes to continue to secure Sport England funding.
“As Chair, I was so fortunate to have him at my side throughout his time in office, but more importantly I was blessed to have him as my dear friend.
“My thoughts are with his wife Julie and the family as they come to terms with their loss. Table tennis will miss his input, dedication and unwavering love for the sport. I will miss him immensely.
“Rest in peace our dear friend and colleague.”
Richard Scruton said: “Keith was passionate about helping people, his community and table tennis. He welcomed everyone with his infectious enthusiasm for life and for our sport.
“It was a privilege to know him for many years and to work with him at London 2012 and within the Management Committee of the National Governing Body.”