Concerns have been raised over the ITTF AGM being moved from Houston ©Getty Images

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is being urged to hold the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Houston, after concerns were raised by the United States Table Tennis Association (USATT) and ITTF Honorary President Adham Sharara.

The ITTF AGM was scheduled to take place in conjunction with the World Table Tennis Championships in Houston, initially scheduled for June 16 to 25.

The governing body announced in March that the AGM would be held on September 18, with the organisation inviting expressions of interest in hosting.

Last month saw the ITTF confirm the World Championships in Houston would be held from November 23 to 29.

Concerns have been raised that holding the AGM and World Championships separately would be in breach of the ITTF Constitution.

In correspondence seen by insidethegames, Sharara sought legal opinion from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren over the interpretation of the ITTF Constitution.

McLaren was asked whether the ITTF Executive Committee (EC) had the right to relocate the AGM based on the Constitution in place in 2019, or under an amended Constitution which allowed the organisation to hold a virtual AGM last year when South Korean city Busan was unable to host the World Championships.

McLaren responded to Sharara with the opinion that the "EC does not have the right, power or authority to change the location and date of the 2021 AGM properly and legally established and vested in the US Association by the wording of the 2019 ITTF Constitution.

"In further answer to the question the amended Constitution does not retroactively apply, but even if it did apply retroactively, there is no power in the EC to strip vested rights legally extended to the US Association as Host," McLaren wrote in the correspondence, seen by insidethegames.

"Therefore the EC actions are a nullity.

"I would conclude that the 2021 AGM must as a matter of the legal and proper application of the ITTF Constitution including its amendment is legally required to be held during the period of the Worlds (23-29 November 2021) in Houston, Texas in the USA.”

In a letter to ITTF secretary general Raul Calin, McLaren argued that the ITTF had designated the US Table Tennis Association as hosts, meaning the governing body’s Executive Committee had delegated "constitutional rights and legislative authority."

McLaren said the rights "cannot be assigned away to the EC or any other body", but only "returned to the delegating legislative authority, the AGM."

ITTF Honorary President Adham Sharara sought legal opinion from Richard McLaren over the AGM ©Getty Images
ITTF Honorary President Adham Sharara sought legal opinion from Richard McLaren over the AGM ©Getty Images

In a letter to ITTF member associations on May 20, Calin sought to clarify the situation regarding the AGM.

Calin said the ITTF had received a letter from the US Government Partner working to host the World Championships last May, which indicated that the event should be cancelled.

The ITTF secretary general said at the time of announcing the AGM date and calling for expressions of interest, no confirmation had been received over whether the World Championships would be held in Houston.

He said the organisation had decided to call for an AGM "as soon as possible" due to the crisis in the leadership, following the dispute between ITTF President Thomas Weikert and ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al-Mohannadi.

Calin said the new dates for the World Championships were finalised after the date was announced for the AGM, claiming that "neither USATT nor the US Government Partner raised any question or concern about the AGM being in September."

The USATT reportedly emailed the ITTF on April 19 seeking to host the AGM, with a second email sent on April 28.

Two member associations were claimed to have submitted bids to host the AGM by a deadline of May 11.

Calin wrote that concerns were discussed with the USATT on May 16 and discussions held in the ITTF Executive Committee over the "unsolicited legal opinion sought by Mr Adham Sharara, ITTF Honorary President."

ITTF President Thomas Weikert, left, will seek re-election at the AGM ©Getty Images
ITTF President Thomas Weikert, left, will seek re-election at the AGM ©Getty Images

"In view of the sentiment of alarm that the communication from the ITTF Honorary President may have generated in the table tennis family, and the concerns raised by USATT CEO and her comments referring to the 'legal ramifications' and 'the attorney' the ITTF will seek its own legal opinion," Calin wrote.

"Likewise, the ITTF has contacted Professor Richard McLaren to confirm which information has been made available by Mr Sharara to him to make his analysis.

"Despite the unilateral actions by one member of the EC, the EC is collectively determined to work in the best interest of the ITTF and its membership until the end of its tenure.

"It is however clear that, the best for the ITTF is that this mandate ends as soon as possible, for which the AGM is needed. 

"It is important to remind that the ITTF had elections on May 31 2017, and the sooner the AGM is held, the better for the new elected EC to start their work.

"The EC will continue to behave with integrity and will keep the higher moral ground.

"Therefore, if the legal opinion to be received were to conclude that the EC erred in its decision to call for an AGM in September, the EC will reconsider its decision.

"If not, the ITTF will go ahead, giving its membership the opportunity to exercise its democratic right to elect a new EC on September 18 2021."

A letter from USATT legal counsel Stephen Hess was sent to the ITTF on Wednesday (May 26), urging the organisation to hold the AGM in Houston.

The letter, seen by insidethegames, accuses the ITTF Executive Committee of attempting to "subvert the will of the AGM", the supreme body within the ITTF.

"The Executive Committee’s attempted usurpation of the AGM’s power to re-assign the time and location of the AGM is legally baseless and an affront to the will of the member associations," Hess wrote. 

"USATT asks that the Executive Committee immediately and unequivocally rescind its plan to re-allocate the AGM in contravention of the Constitution."

The AGM will see the election of the ITTF President.

Weikert will seek re-election at the meeting, with the German official currently being opposed by Sweden's Petra Sörling.