Hosting the WTT Feeder Manchester in February has enabled a number of opportunities to engage the local population in table tennis – and our Ping Hub project in the city has been extended until the end of the year.

Participation in the city is starting from a low base – the presence of table tennis, despite the large Chinese population, is relatively low, with no established Premier clubs in the city and only two affiliated clubs.

There was very little in the way of organised social activity and no Ping activity. Much of the organised and semi-formal activity takes place outside the city in the surrounding boroughs.

Since the start of February, the staging of the WTT Feeder Manchester has provided the focus and energy to start building links with local communities to increase activity and table tennis participation using Ping as the vehicle. Through the Ping Hub established at the Great Northern Warehouse, we have established a destination across the local community for free play, coached activity, women and girls activity and competitions.

The Great Northern Ping Hub has seen throughput growing each month. Between the start of February and end of April, the Ping Hub has seen 3,500 people visit. Of those, 1,000 have engaged in one or more of our coached and led activities. Of those, 35% are female and 87% have either not played table tennis before or are very low-level social players, so we know it is engaging a new audience.

We estimate that 50% of participants are from a diverse background (mainly Chinese, Hong Kong or South Asian). We have had over 4,000 visits to the Ping Hub website in two months and over 5,500 searches for it on Google. This demonstrates the growing reach of the Hub.

Our relationship with the Great Northern Warehouse is also strong, with their Director extending the Hub until the end of 2024 and businesses commenting they have seen an uplift in trade and footfall because of the Hub.

As a result of the increased levels of engagement and participation, 47 players have become members of Table Tennis England and the Ping Hub has played host to two Manchester varsity matches, our International Women’s Day national event and a number of local pop-up activities with local community groups.

A varsity match under way at the Ping Hub

There is now a local Hong Kong group who use the Hub as their base each week having never engaged outside their community before. We are also linking with a local Ukrainian group. We have 17 schools actively engaged with our U11 programme offer and five schools visit the Hub for PE lessons and have coached table tennis at the venue (75 students are attending).

Outside of the Hub we have also been working, in conjunction with MCRactive, with Bruntwood and will be placing tables into two of their buildings and building a Corporate Table Tennis event with their tenant companies. We are also now engaged with the leisure operator, GLL, and have placed new tables into East Manchester Leisure Centre and Abraham Moss Leisure Centre where a new table tennis programme is being established in their centre to help grow the capacity of their popular youth club, including the training of their staff.

Finally, we now have good and strong connections into the Chinese community through the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester and were invited to promote the Ping Hub and our work at Chinese New Year where 2,500 leaflets were disseminated and a noticeable increase in the number of Chinese playing at the Ping Hub. We are now building on these relationships to commence activity and support within that community.

Table Tennis England CEO Adrian Christy said: “All this has been achieved in the last four months. Without the WTT Feeder Manchester, we would not have invested resources into the city, the Ping Hub wouldn’t have been in place, and thousands of new players would not have been introduced to table tennis.

“This is a fabulous example of a major event reaching and engaging new audiences enabling the growth of grassroots table tennis.”