Adham Sharara has announced plans to step down as president of the International Table Tennis Federation, less than a year after winning re-election in a hotly-contested battle.
The Canadian will formally leave office on 1 September, from which time he will take on a newly-created role of chairman of the ITTF.
The overwhelming majority of delegates at the ITTF annual general meeting in Tokyo yesterday were in favour of creating the chairman role, and 90 per cent said they wanted Sharara to take the reins.
The ITTF chairman will have no voting or decision-making powers, but will chair the AGM.
Sharara is stepping down from the ITTF after 15 years as president, and will be replaced, according to the terms of the federation’s constitution, by deputy president Thomas Weikert from Germany.
Sharara said the new position would give him time to “contribute efficiently in special focus areas needed for the further development of the ITTF. The new plan is designed to move table tennis into the top five sports in the world."
As an independent chairman he will also work to raise the competitiveness of European countries in the hope of ending China’s dominance of the sport, but admitted he will need China’s help to achieve this.
Sharara explained: "We'd like China to open up more and allow the top teams to train with them and learn from their coaches for a period, maybe five or six years… It's easier to try and coordinate this if I'm not the decision-making president."
"During the Sochi [2014 winter] Olympics I got bored watching the long-track speed skating. You knew who was going to win: Holland, Holland, Holland. Table tennis spectators may also think it's predictable and not watch it."
He continued: "We just need to create more rivalry. Five or six years down the line, China can close the door, say 'we've given enough, and now we want to beat the hell out of you again.”
Sharara was re-elected president of the ITTF at last year’s AGM in Paris following a bitter election campaign in which allegations of corruption and threats of legal action were traded with his challenger, Italy’s Stefano Bosi.
Prior to the presidential vote in May 2013, Sharara had moved to quell accusations from Bosi that the presidential election was being run undemocratically by ruling that both he and Bosi, president of the European Table Tennis Union, would have a chance to address the AGM ahead of the election.
The war of words between the two candidates had intensified in the preceding month, with Sharara threatening legal action against Bosi for “libel and defamation of character, and especially for damaging the image of the ITTF and its president.”
Sharara described as “totally unacceptable and unethical” allegations of financial impropriety made against him by Bosi.
Sharara was reacting to accusations of “serious infringements” in the field of “financial fair play,” made in Bosi’s campaign literature and in a letter sent to the ITTF’s board of directors.