Olympic committee suspends Table Tennis Association over misuse of funds by former members

Alleged case of serious misconduct by one of the table tennis association members had also been completely ignored by the association executive committee for slightly less than two whole years

Table Tennis (File photo)
Table Tennis (File photo)

The Maltese Olympic Committee General Assembly has decided on temporarily suspending the Malta Table Tennis Association over alleged misuse of funds by two of its former members.

The Maltese Olympic Committee (MOC) said following an agreement entered to between SportMalta and the Malta Table Tennis Association (MTTA) in July 2021, related to the use of NDSF funds for technical preparations ahead of the Games of the Small States of Europe 2023, the MTTA Executive Committee voted with six votes in favour and one vote against (David Pace) to opt for the recruitment of foreign based players to represent Malta through the Passport by Merit Scheme, similarly to what had already been done by a few other national sport federations.

Days later, Pace decided to accept this decision and presented four different CVs of Hungarian nationals for the MTTA Executive Committee to discuss their possible recruitment. “Ultimately, these options were discarded as the final selection fell on other players.”

Reacting to the outcome, Pace sent an unsigned resignation letter on his own behalf and also on behalf of four other MTTA Executive Committee members.

“The beginning of September has always been eagerly awaited for by all MTTA Members since preparations begin in earnest for the start of the new season. These resignations inevitably brought about havoc within the MTTA to detriment of all MTTA Members who were left fuming that the season did not start, as annually done, in September. Clearly, the best interest of athletes was discarded completely,” the MOC said.

It said the Executive Board of the Maltese Olympic Committee felt that it had no option other than to intervene in the best interest of all athletes.

“It transpired that an alleged case of serious misconduct by one of the MTTA Members had been completely ignored by the MTTA Executive Committee for slightly less than two whole years. This was totally unacceptable to the MOC as was in clear violation with the IOC Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport Policy. Furthermore, there was a complaint of possible misuse of funds by two of the Members who had resigned,” the MOC said.

An invitation was extended to all MTTA Members to forward proposals for amendments to MTTA Statute ahead of the Extraordinary General Meeting called on 9 December 2022 followed by another one on 7 February 2023.

Amongst others, MTTA Members voted against having a disciplinary process included in Statute. As a member of the Maltese Olympic Committee, this is in clear breach of the standards expected by any national federation.

“Meanwhile, the MOC ensured that National Leagues started as from 9 January 2023 to the delight of all athletes involved. All academies participated with the exception of Sharp Shot Academy, owned by Mr. David Pace, who opted not to enter any of his teams with the consequence that most of his registered players were deprived the opportunity to participate,” it said.

The MOC also set up a three-person Disciplinary Board to see to the pending disciplinary case. To date, three meetings have already been held and the case is still ongoing with both parties being given the opportunity to bring forward all evidence and witnesses thus ensuring a fair hearing and that finally this case will be brought to an end in the coming months.

“In view of all this, the Executive Board of the Maltese Olympic Committee gave a detailed account of all these facts to its General Assembly during its biannual meeting held on Wednesday 14 June and following a vote taken, 99% of those present voted in favour of serving the Malta Table Tennis Association with a temporary suspension. One member abstained,” the statement read.

Andrew Gabina omission

With regards to the omission of Andrew Gambina from the national team during the Games of the Small States of Europe 2023, it is to be noted that this was based on disciplinary grounds.

“During the final of the Men’s National Championships, Andrew Gambina demonstrated an act of absolute misbehaviour and disrespect after refusing to continue the match unless the assistant umpire was removed after he disagreed with the same umpire’s call. Gambina’s poor attitude brought the match to a halt as he was resolute on not continuing and also sat on the table unless he got his way,” the MOC.

Eventually, in order to bring the match to an end, the Tournament Director did remove the assistant umpire and the match was concluded with Gambina losing to national champion Gabriel Grixti.

“Such behaviour is totally against the sporting principles expected by the MOC by any national team athlete,” the MOC said.