An important announcement from Chris Dangerfield (founder of TT365)
This statement is formal confirmation that I have now agreed the terms for the sale of Table Tennis 365 Ltd, to Steve Pound; an individual who has a long history with table tennis and someone who has been a big admirer and supporter of TT365 for over a decade.
The first thing to say is that making this decision has certainly been one of the most difficult of my life. TT365 is my baby, I have dedicated just over 14 years of my life to its development.
It is a sad day for me, but an exciting time for the company. When I made the decision to sell, one of my red-lines was that I would not just sell to anyone, for me this is like selling my dog that I’ve raised from a pup; heart-breaking on the one hand, but hand-on-heart, knowing this is what’s in his best interest.
So why have I sold?
When I started TT365, I was single, living the bachelor lifestyle. Today I am married with 3 kids and life looks totally different, which on its own is not necessarily a reason to sell, but with the other factors I will now share, it became the ultimate reason; my health and my family must come first.
I am going to be very honest about this as I believe if you’re interested enough to read this, you deserve to know the full story. I created TT365 to be a force for good and to bring positive change to the sport I loved; and for a long time this was the case, but for me it has ended in a very sad way, shrouded in rumour, with my personal reputation tarnished in the eyes of some who I once considered friends, so I am going to use this opportunity to set the record straight and ultimately it will help you understand why I am moving on.
It is no secret that the fantastic relationship I had with Table Tennis England (under the excellent stewardship of Richard Yule and Alex Murdoch) changed very much for the worse when Sara Sutcliffe and Sandra Deaton took over our sport. The degradation of the relationship is well known so I won’t drudge that up again, except to say that whilst I acknowledge that personally I had my share of disagreements with the leadership of our sport; TT365, the entity that I have now sold, did nothing wrong in my opinion. It never missed 1 SLA in the 8 years of our relationship with TTE, we built a platform that was loved (almost) universally and most importantly it just worked as users expected.
In 2019 our relationship with TTE came to an end and with that, the loss of a significant amount of our income, some direct from TTE for contractual services, and some indirect due to a loss of market share, which was as a direct result of TTEs launch of TT Leagues. There is a lot I could say about this, but I won’t. I will leave you to draw your own conclusion.
TT365 began charging members directly for its software, in 2019, and some leagues remained with us. To those leagues who supported us… I am truly grateful and will never forget some of the conversations I had with administrators from all over the country who offered me comfort and support at a time when I really needed it.
The sad reality though was that leagues were faced with continuing to pay for our service or simply use TT Leagues which was by this time being given freely to all leagues. I can’t honestly blame the leagues or their members for choosing to use TT Leagues for free, given the membership fees were mandatory, so in choosing TT365, they were effectively paying twice. Anyway, the stark reality hit in late 2019 when conversations with leagues who had chosen to stay with us, started to tell me the move to TT Leagues was all but inevitable and basically it all came down to the fact that TT Leagues was free. I therefore took the decision to give TT365 for free too, which lead to all those leagues staying and around another 40 announcing they would return.
Then Covid hit us all (less said) but with no TT activity it gave me time to assess the situation. If I wanted TT365 to survive I needed to run it at a loss and driven by my desire to not let those leagues who had stood by me down and a desire to not allow TTE to destroy everything I had worked for over a decade to build, I took a full-time job in early 2021. I put money into the business to keep things running and spent evenings and weekends handling support queries and fixing the occasional gremlin that was reported.
I have done that for 2 years now and I realised that with Sara gone and Sandra on her way out soon my main motivation was gone. Also, in selling to Steve I feel confident that he will continue to support those leagues, to which I am forever grateful.
So, I was now running a business that by this time had 2 divisions, a loss making software company and a thriving retail store selling table tennis equipment, but I was still working 50 – 60 hours per week and in December when I asked my daughter what she wanted for Christmas and her response was for Daddy to play with her more, the decision I had been agonising over for many months was made very simple. Family above all else.
So there you have it, a very open and personal account of why I have sold TT365, but that’s not the end of this story by a long way.
During Covid I had time to think and speak with many friends within the TT community and one thing that kept coming up was how can I continue to provide TT365 for free. You now know the answer, but this was nagging at me because the reason I made TT365 free was not that it wasn’t worth paying for, it was that TTE were tying the provision of TT Leagues to membership, essentially any affiliated local league can use the software for free. This then begs the question, if I can’t afford to run TT365 for free, how can TTE run TT Leagues for free, as well as paying to build it in the first place, something that I can tell you I spent hundreds of thousands of pounds doing over a period of nearly 10 years.
I started to seek advice and eventually transitioned to a point where I appointed a specialist in anti-competitive law to review what happened and provide guidance. I was at minimum hoping to get some closure, but I wasn’t truly prepared for what he came back with, which was an extremely comprehensive report where he advised me to have a letter written to TTE advising them of concerns on various points, where there is legal precedent, that at minimum raises questions over their actions and continued policies and practices. This letter was sent to the CEO Adrian Christy in April 2022.
For the past 9 months I have been engaged in what I can only describe as a meaningless tit-for-tat exchange with TTE’s lawyers. Despite my original letter requesting a sit-down to find an amicable solution, this never happened. To this date, TTE have not yet provided us with a meaningful reply. I can tell you I have already spent in excess of £10,000 in legal fees and I have been informed by TTE solicitors that they have spent significant amounts of money too, although I am not sure it is my place to say how much was quoted to me.
I can tell you that being ignored for 9 months and seeing yet more money drain from the bank account dealing with meaningless lawyer tit-for-tat exchanges is exhausting and this was another thing that played into my decision to sell and move on.
I truly gave everything I had to the sport, not only founding TT365, but also as a volunteer at every level of our sport for over a decade, be it, league, club, coach, county, National Council, including being Chair and of course being Chair of the British League for almost 6 years.
TTE have drained the passion from me for the Sport I once loved, how’s that for the role of a governing body; I am not just selling TT365, but I am resigning from every role and position I hold in table tennis; thanks TTE, for stealing one of my life-long passions from me. You’ve soured things for me to a point where I can’t bear the thought of picking up a bat! "A sport for life", as long as you don’t disagree with how the sport is run, it seems!
Anyway, circling back to the letter sent in April… Steve told me he would prefer to find an amicable solution, as opposed to pursuing a legal one, therefore one of his first acts as the new owner was to try and engage TTE over the legal matter, that has now been raging for over 9 months. I am told he approached a board member in the hope of opening a dialog (something I was instructed by TTE solicitors I was not allowed to do!) and to his surprise (and mine) found that the TTE board (the ultimate decision making body of our sport) didn’t even know about the letter, the legal costs on both sides or the pending legal action which if pursued and if successful would see TTE sued for damages that would make your eyes water.
When Steve found that nobody knew what was going on, he immediately remedied that by sending the letter to all board members and I am told this was followed up by letters to National Councillors, leagues, and other contacts within table tennis. Sadly, Steve jumped the gun and some of you will be reading this already aware of some of this, having been sent the letter, probably from your National Councillor. That is unfortunate as I would have liked to be the one to explain my reasons for selling first. That said, no harm done now that I have put this message out. The one thing about Steve is he won’t let the grass grow under his feet, he is a passionate table tennis person, just like you and I sold to him because he is motivated to finish what I started; he is a huge fan of TT365 having seen what it did for his own league(s) and importantly he is at a stage of his life where he has the time to dedicate to the full revival of TT365, in a way that I am simply not able to commit to at this time. I hope you will give him the same level of support you’ve given me over the years and support his mission to see TT365 revived to its former glory; that would make me very happy 😊
So, what’s next?
The first thing to say is that as part of the sale agreement I am not just going to disappear. I have agreed a slow hand-over to Steve so I can exit, and he can take over, at a comfortable pace.
What you may not know is that Steve has been employed and working for TT365 for around 9 months, so this deal is more inline with a management buy-out.
Dan remains involved and as you will know Dan was instrumental in the development of TT365 too, so there is no cause for concern on the software front.
Steve is fully up to speed with the legal position and as an employee has been involved in things to date, every step of the way. I have agreed to remain fully committed to supporting him in his continued actions against TTE, this would include providing evidence in court if necessary.
I would love to see TT365 regain market share and live up to its true potential as a force for good within table tennis. I do see a future where both TT Leagues and TT365 could both have a place in our sport, so that leagues have a real genuine free choice. As an entrepreneur I would have to acknowledge that competition is good for innovation and the consumer. That said, there must be a level playing field for business to compete fairly and TTE should address the injustices that exist today, not only to be fair to TT365, but also to ensure the best outcome for the members, to whom TTE should really be ultimately responsible.
For the first time in a very long time, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I look forward to new challenges in my professional life and of course maximising the time I can spend with my family.
I end by offering my sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me and TT365 and I now hand-over to Steve who has prepared a short piece to append to this statement.
A message from Steve…
I am pleased to confirm that I am taking over as the new owner of Table Tennis 365.
I thank Chris Dangerfield for all the work he has done as founder of the business and wish him and his family well moving forward. I also thank all of the TT365 customers for the loyalty they have shown to Chris over many years.
Chris has steered the company through turbulent times and over the last year has handed over much responsibility to me and our agreement will see him exit slowly to ensure a smooth transition.
We still have technical support from Dan who built much of TT365’s core software as well as additional support from a new 3rd party IT company.
Over the last year we have communicated to Table Tennis England regarding alleged anti-Competitive behaviour with our Lawyers and Specialist anti-competition Barrister assuring us we have a sound legal basis to proceed.
We very much hope that in the near future we will resolve the dispute to the benefit of all table tennis players in the UK and particularly TT365 customers.
If you would like to see the letter, would just like a chat about my future plans or the potential legal implications, I would be happy to speak to you.