The future of Table Tennis 365 is now at serious risk.
Following a decision taken by Table Tennis England in October last year and the subsequent failure of negotiations to secure funding for TT365 & League Manager going forward, the future provision of TT365 is now at serious risk.
Update: Saturday 16th March 2019.
Over the last 5 days TT365 and myself personally have been bombarded with emails, support messages and of course posts on this forum. I am so grateful to everyone that has shown support. I am also grateful to those of you who have had the guts to raise the difficult points, around why this is happening and also speak out against TTE’s actions.
After reading all the direct communications, plus everything being said on social media, I have come to the following conclusion.
A lot has been said by both sides in this debacle and whilst it does seem that any attempt to go back to the table with TTE will be extremely difficult, I feel that it is incumbent on both parties to at least try and find an amicable solution for the benefit of everyone in our sport.
It is my intention to email TTE on Monday and offer to formally re-open discussions. At this stage I can make zero promises as to the outcome, all I can offer to do is listen and try to find compromises where they may exist.
My most sincere thanks to everyone and I promise to try and get through any negotiation quickly and keep you all updated on progress, if any.
The following is a message from TT365 founder Chris Dangerfield.
I have read all the various posts on social media, different websites and direct emails and I have been humbled by the amount of support and good wishes I have received, so thank you.
I have also been disappointed to read a few comments from concerned members on platforms like Facebook, who have expressed views based on false assumptions or in some cases complete mis-information, so I intend to put the facts into the public domain, so you can judge for yourself.
In October last year I shared the news that Table Tennis England had decided to replace the TT365 membership & ranking system with a different solution. At the time I said the decision would pose significant financial challenges to us and this is the crux of the entire situation.
TT365 always had a very positive relationship with TTE, until around 2 years ago… and we always took a very simplistic view of our finances. It cost X pounds to run the business, so I needed X pounds in income. As I have now learned, having all your eggs in one basket is a really bad thing and when TTE withdrew the funding for the membership and ranking system, it left a massive hole in our finances. For us there was no option to just turn off that functionality and save 60% of our expenditure, that remained the same. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that if you suddenly lose a significant portion of your income it is going to cause problems. In your own life, if you suddenly get given a 60% pay-cut, that loss of income will have a profound effect on your ability to meet your monthly outgoings and this is the position we are in.
Despite what TTE have said, we are not suddenly increasing our charge to TTE for League Manager; and the cost of running League Manager is not £1.60. That is just an amount that TTE started paying us on 31st July 2017. TT365 survived for the 8 years prior to that on other income from TTE. All that £1.60 did is allow us to invest in another member of staff (Mark), who has really helped improve our support and increase the speed at which we add new features.
So TTE are spinning things in a certain light to try and make TT365 out to be the bad guys in all of this, now you have the facts you can determine the answer to that question yourself.
Below is my response to TTE’s announcement yesterday which I posted on our admin forum earlier this morning and below that is a rather large communication I posted on Monday afternoon, which explains in great details the how and the why of this situation.
Here is an initial response to Table Tennis England’s recent communication.TTE have formally stated that we are asking for a 5 times increase. This is just spin; I call it spin instead of a lie, because they have taken a fact and twisted it to suit their own agenda.
I made it perfectly clear in my original communication that our reason for the charge to leagues was to cover the loss of funding which has occurred as a result of TTE’s decision to move the membership and ranking to another provider.
TTE have failed to take VAT into the equation and whilst I propose to charge you £7 per player, £1.17 of that goes straight to the VAT man, so I only get £5.83.
Table Tennis England stated they pay £1.60 per member; however it is not paid to every member, just those that use League Manager, which is currently 19,010. The fee they pay us is also plus VAT, so compare £1.92 to £5.83; is that a 5-times increase?
However, none of that really matters because they have completely mis-lead you by saying they only pay us is £1.60.
I have looked at our invoices to TTE for the past 3 years and the average income was £109,397 per year, this is fact and I have the invoices and bank statements to prove it. So, take that figure and divide by the 19,010 players that used League Manager last season and you get £5.75 per player. That is the true amount of your membership money that went into supporting TT365 as a whole.
We have based our future figures on retaining 80% of leagues, paying £7 and give or take the variation in number of players per league hope to retain 15,500 players, which equates to £108,500.
If we can achieve that, our turnover would be the same next year as it was this year. Therefore, for TTE to come out and say that we have increased our cost to them by 5 times is nothing short of outrageous.
I have just given away sensitive financial business information, but given TTE are giving you mis-information, at this point I welcome complete and total transparency, therefore, how much is TTE paying for this new membership and ranking system, and how did they manage to somehow find a viable alternative to league manager in 24 hours?
Statement from TT365 on 11th March 2019
In October last year I shared the news that Table Tennis England had decided to replace the TT365 membership & ranking system with a different solution. At the time I said that the news had come as a shock and would pose significant financial challenges to us. I said that we needed time to fully investigate all the possible options, but that our number one priority was to find a way to ensure the continued provision of our services to you. We have now looked at all the options and feel we should update you further.
Unfortunately, our negotiations with Table Tennis England are still ongoing so we still don’t know the full picture, but I felt that given most leagues will be wrapping up their season soon, it was very important that this communication came out in early March.
This is a very short and to the point summary of the current situation, but I have prepared a much more detailed communication below, which I strongly suggest you read to gain a full understanding of the situation.
As a result of the loss of income from Table Tennis England and despite our best efforts to find alternative sources of income, the finances of TT365 no longer stack-up. The bottom line is if leagues want to continue using League Manager there is going to have to be a direct charge to each league, without this TT365 is no longer viable.
If we are unable to gain the support we need, then it is with a heavy heart that I will be faced with the heart-breaking and frankly nonsensical decision to turn off the TT365 servers on 1st August.
Let me say however, in the strongest possible terms, that I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that this does not happen. As a table tennis player and volunteer within our sport I know full-well the chaos that will come if I am forced into that decision.
Naturally, should this end up happening there is a point prior to 1st August at which I must start winding things up; staff need notice periods, hosting and other monthly agreements need to be cancelled. Therefore, it is important that you declare your position as soon as possible, but at the latest by mid-June.
I never wanted any of this and let me be clear, this is only happening because of Table Tennis England’s decision to withdraw support.
I ask you to please read the full communication below, where I offer a very candid and honest evaluation of why we are in this situation and how we can move forward.
Dear TT365 community,
We are at a very difficult junction in the history of TT365. If you have read the summary to this communication then you will know that we are being forced down a road, that we never wanted to go down, yet here we are. In this communication I intend to give you an explanation of why we are in this position, but also look at the challenges we face now together in order to find a sustainable way forward.
To begin I feel it is worth considering the history of TT365 & League Manager. I started TT365 mainly out of frustration that in my own league it took weeks for tables to be published, often by the time they were published they were out of date. It was also clear to me from the various AGM’s I had attended that the long-term survival of my league was in doubt given volunteers were on the decline year on year and it was just the same people taking on more and more work, to keep the league going. So, I built the first version of League Manager and it was a big success, so much so that it only took a few weeks before neighbouring leagues were contacting me and asking to use it too. Naturally, I obliged and then things took an unexpected turn for me, when news of TT365 reached the then ETTA, under the chairmanship of Alex Murdoch. A meeting was arranged where they viewed the system and recognised the clear benefits. They asked for it to be rolled out nationally but at this time I was just running 3 league sites more as a hobby, but it soon became necessary to employee more people to support you all and turn TT365 into a company. The rest is history and today we power well over 200 leagues & 100 clubs across England, Wales & Scotland and employ 4 full-time staff, including myself and ideally, we could do with at least one more developer to help us bring the improvements and additions you all constantly request, quicker.
When I looked at taking League Manager from a side-project with 3 leagues to a company, one of the biggest questions was how I finance such an operation. It was clear to me after talking to various leagues in the early days that there was a lot of scepticism that a computer system could really be used to replace the manual processes all leagues had relied on for years. I knew it would work and the ETTA shared my view, but we needed something more, which is when I came up with the idea that if leagues got the software for free, there was no reason not to try it, even the most sceptical person could not argue with trying it for free, just to see. I believed that once you tried it, you would love it and see just what a difference it could make. Around that time the ETTA were having real issues with their then membership system (ETTA Connect, not sure if any of you remember that) but we came up with an agreement whereby we would effectively take TT365 League Manager and enhance it to have full membership facilities, roles management and later ranking and more. Naturally, we came to a financial agreement with ETTA and the income we have received from these additional systems as well as the numerous other projects commissioned by ETTA over the years plus a bit of advertising revenue allowed us to scale the business to the point where we could effectively provide League Manager to you all for free, and we agreed that ETTA would promote it as a benefit of membership, given that it is your affiliation fees that fund the costs associated with running TT365.
You pay your affiliation fees to Table Tennis England and they use some of that money to fund the TT365 software and thus League Manager can be provided for free as a membership benefit, but in reality, you are… and always have been paying for it, just indirectly.
All the income we receive from TTE for the provision of Membership Manager, the Ranking System, Tournament Entry, Club System and loads more will cease on 31st July. This is worth tens of thousands of pounds per year and it now leaves a massive hole in our finances. In addition to this, with the exception of the last year or so, TTE have generally commissioned custom projects with us that have generated income again the tens of thousands of pounds per year range; this will now also stop. TTE also pay an amount to TT365 for every member that has a full paid membership and has played in a league that uses league manager, but at the time of writing it is still very unclear if this will continue either.
The average total annual income from Table Tennis England over the last 3 years is over £100,000. Obviously, this goes up and down, based on the variable level of bespoke work under-taken. This income accounts for a very significant portion of our total income. It would be an impossibility to continue to pay our full-time members of staff and cover the other expenses of the business on the income we get from advertising and smaller income streams such as email manager pro.
So why am I being so open about the company finances? Well despite what some might think, I set up TT365 to be a force for good in the sport I love, not to get rich. All I ever wanted was to run a company that was beneficial to Table Tennis and be paid a fair wage that justifies the efforts I put in on a daily basis. The simple fact is that with the loss of TTE income, the finances just don’t stack up any longer and the future of TT365 is now in serious question. I cannot run TT365 at a loss, just like you I have a mortgage and bills to pay, as do my other staff.
One thing that is worth addressing now, is why we have 4 members of staff. Every day we handle dozens of requests for support, often one enquiry can sometimes take an hour or more to debug and respond. It is a system that is supported 7 days per week, and we pride ourselves on providing a fast and high-quality response; in 10 years I cannot recall one serious complaint about our support service. Unfortunately, there is a lack of recognition for how big an operation TT365 actually is; its not just me in my spare room working on this part-time after work, it’s 4 highly skilled professionals working full-time. It is not owned or supported by Table Tennis England in any way, other than that already described; it is its own legal standalone entity. Finally, in terms of scale our webservers cost thousands of pounds annually and handle in excess of 12,000 requests per hour and deliver close to 2.5 million page-views per month and this continues to grow month on month. TT365 is a big operation, with significant costs, that requires a 6-figure turnover, each year.
I have always said TT365 will be free to leagues and when I said it, I meant it. However, some nay-sayers will now relish this situation and say that this was always part of some grand plan, but that could not be further from the truth. This communication is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to write. I want to continue to provide TT365 to you all and not just keep the status-quo but press-on and innovate. I want to be able to implement some of the really great suggestions you have given us, such as an app for online score entry, a cup-module, new innovative playing systems such as an all of 5 sets format and so many more; I have every suggestion documented and there are literally hundreds of requests, some small, others more significant and over-time I would aim to deliver all of them, but first we must find a sustainable way forward which no longer requires to us rely on funding from Table Tennis England.
Late last year I spent a lot of time looking into other sources of revenue. I made a link with a trophy supplier which if every league purchased their trophies through them could have generated a decent amount of income, but despite my launching this option, not one league has placed an order in 5 months.
I also looked at other sources of advertising outside of the traditional Tees Sports adverts; I had a professional sales person work on this and approach hundreds of major brands, after weeks of cold-calls, not one bite. I had to cancel the contract as it was clear there is just no interest in supporting grass roots Table Tennis. In fact, not so long-ago Table Tennis England employed a full-time sales director for over a year. He has now left the association and his position was never filled, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know. We are on our own.
So, the bottom line is if you want to continue using League Manager there is going to have to be a direct cost to each league.
- TT365 must achieve a minimum income level to be viable, but direct charging raised a number of questions which we have discussed with leagues to help shape our policy.
- If every league that uses league manager today continued to use it and paid a fee, then calculating a price would be fairly easy, but if not all (which I suspect) agree to pay for League Manager, I have to factor in this lost income, which in turn increases the fee that must be paid, and that increase may well push leagues that were happy with the lower amount to no longer be happy, which puts us into a vicious circle, so pricing League Manager has proven to be nothing short of near-impossible.
- The increase in administration for TT365 in going from one invoice per year to what will likely be hundreds, will increase our costs further.
- Our current thinking is to charge based on usage and the most obvious way to do this is to calculate the price based on the number of players in each league. This means each league will pay different amounts but proportional to their size and ultimately the players would all pay the same. We envisage a simple registration fee (or increase to an existing fee) be charged by each league. Many leagues already do this on a smaller scale for the supply of email manager pro.
- If you run a club that uses TT365 for a website, you may be wondering how this affects you. We have decided that if your club is affiliated to a league that is already paying for TT365 League Manager, then you will continue to benefit from the free website features of TT365, nothing will really change for you.
- If you run a county website and your leagues are paying for TT365, then again we see no reason to charge; the income we get from those leagues will be enough to support the continued free provision of your website.
- It is important to note that we are not setting up a TT365 membership scheme it is a software licence paid by each league based on a form of usage.
- There were 2 concerns raised by the admins we took advice from:
- What about players who only play once or twice in a league.
- What about players who play in multiple leagues.
Whatever happens, all of this needs to be resolved and agreed before 31st July. Every league currently using TT365 needs to be aware of this, discuss it within their committees and maybe even take it to their AGM.
The question asked most by those we have taken advice from was: What happens if this does not get sorted?
It is fairly clear now that TTE are not part of the solution; so, we are pressing ahead on the basis that we will get little to no support from them going forward.
If we are unable to find that sweet-spot where enough leagues are prepared to pay enough money so that TT365 can survive, then it is with a heavy heart that I will be faced with the heart-breaking and frankly nonsensical decision to turn off the TT365 servers on 1st August.
Let me say however, in the strongest possible terms, that I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that this does not happen. As a table tennis player and volunteer within our sport I know full-well the chaos that will come if I am forced into that decision. All I can do is hope that my very open and honest evaluation of the current situation is enough for you to be able to have a serious discussion within your own league in a speedy time-frame.
I never wanted any of this and let me be clear, this is only happening because of Table Tennis England’s decision to withdraw support.
- We ask you to take this communication back to your committees for consideration and we would appreciate your feedback at the earliest opportunity. Here are the facts and some further thoughts for consideration.
- We will be charging on a per player, per league, per year basis.
- The proposed charge is currently £7, but this number will obviously be influenced by the number of leagues that agree to this new way of working and we will have very little control over the final price as it will be determined by the amount of support we receive. In simple terms the more support we get the less we will have to charge, on the flip-side the less support we get the more we have to charge.
- We expect a variety of responses and we know we will never find a perfect solution that everyone is 100% happy with, so will you accept a proposal that is supported by the majority and what red-lines if any do you have, that might prevent you from supporting a charging structure. Equally, if you would not support a charge of any kind, please let us know as this is important for us to know.
- I believe that it will be important to have a fee structure that has a pre-determined annual increase in line with inflation, so you know with some certainty that our fees won’t continue to go up year on year more than a fair inflationary amount and I am completely fine with that and happy to make that part of any agreement.
- It has been suggested that maybe TT365 should offer differing levels of licence, so a basic version which just gives access to simple league manager functionality and then additional bolt-on modules, like our email pro, for those leagues who wish to take advantage of things like our voting module, finance module and other future modules we may develop such as an app for online scoring.
- It has been suggested that leagues should be able to have a discounted price, if they give a long-term commitment to TT365, so a price for a one year rolling agreement and a lower price for a 3- or 5-year agreement.
So, in wrapping up this communication, how do I summarise in words how I am feeling, well…
Angry, Sad, Frustrated and generally disillusioned by this entire situation which is totally out of my control.
I know I am going to come in for criticism which in my view would be un-just.
I know that there are some leagues that will probably not even read this and be shocked in when August their login doesn’t work because they have not agreed to the charge or TT365 no longer exists.
I know there will be leagues who are furious with TTE over the handling of this situation and I know that I will be blamed for that and this will likely further degrade the relationship I have with them, which is at an all-time low.
Finally, I despair at the thought of where this might end up; after dedicating 10 years of my life to a project which works great for so many, to see it deleted would be beyond madness and simply heart-breaking for me.
Now is not the time to be silent, we need honest feedback and constructive ideas for a sustainable way forward. I await your comments.