April 9 - Sport England have today launched a new initiative to boost recreational table tennis across the country with £250,000 ($397,000/€304,000) of National Lottery funding having been set aside to pay for public ping pong tables in a project titled "Ping! the Public".
From village halls and city councils to after-school clubs, all non-profit organisations can apply for their own table with the only stipulation being that it is free for people to use and enjoy.
It is a major boost for the sport ahead of London 2012 as table tennis is already one of the fastest growing sports in England with 134,900 people now playing it weekly in an increase of nearly 50,000 from last year.
"We'd like to see ping pong tables popping up everywhere - from village greens to university canteens, and city squares to community centres," said Jennie Price, Sport England's chief executive.
"The important thing for any organisation applying for a table is to demonstrate that it will be well used."
The fund has been created in response to the overwhelming success of Ping! – the city-wide ping pong initiative launched in London in 2010 that helped transformed the popularity of social table tennis.
The project started with 100 tables placed across the capital before it moved to Birmingham and Hull last summer.
It is hoped that the new Ping! the Public initiative will be equally successful and Sport England have also today confirmed £280,585 ($445,288/€340,686) of National Lottery funding for the third year of the project, which will see Ping! travel to Bristol and Liverpool this summer before returning to London ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"Ping! has proved one of our most successful sports participation projects, attracting over 150,000 participants to date," said Price.
"Moreover, our Active People Survey shows that once people start playing they don't want to stop."
As part of the initiative, Councils in Birmingham, Brighton, Hampshire, Leicester and Sheffield will all be placing tables in prominent locations for everyone to enjoy.
In addition to free play, the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA) will host a series of masterclasses, tournaments and coaching sessions.
Also on offer are Random Acts of Ping Pong, an unusual programme of art and social ping pong, from artist-designed tables to Singles for Singles - an event to help you find your perfect match - and Midnight Ping! with glow in the dark balls.
The tables are up from June 29 this year for four to six weeks.
"Table tennis can be played by anyone, anytime, anyplace, anywhere," said ETTA chief executive Richard Yule.
"Ping! proves it.
"Great exercise and great fun is guaranteed on a Ping! table this summer."
The Ping! the Public Fund opens today and closes on April 23 with all applicants set to have a response within six weeks.
Non-profit organisations who want to apply should register their interest by clicking here.
To find your nearest table and get playing as part of Ping! this summer, click here.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
October 2010: Permanent home for 77 of London's ping-pong tables
August 2010: Mark Dolley - Ping-pong points the way to ensure London 2012 legacy
July 2010: Four weeks of free table tennis hits the capital as Ping! is launched