The evolution & impact of padel in Europe

Spain, the most dominant country for padel in the world has over 20,000 padel courts and an estimated 4 million active players.

 

Since the early 90s, padel in Spain has primarily developed at tennis clubs; interestingly it’s now estimated that just 25% of total padel courts are located at tennis venues. 

 

Over the last decade, dedicated padel venues have been setup by enthusiasts as small businesses. The latest trends suggest however that the smaller padel clubs, defined as those with less than 4-courts are now starting to go out of business. This is due to a saturated market. The fierce competition between venues has resulted in a pricing war that has inevitably driven down court booking prices to an all-time low, whilst monthly rentals on warehouses look to increase.

 

As the padel industry matures and becomes more global, it’s the more established venues with a sustainable business model that usually survive, as with more traditional sports. The same can be said for the hundreds of padel brands that once flooded the marketplace; the more reputable brands, those household names with greater infrastructure, stability and experience, are the ones that come out on top.

 

Notably for venues in Spain and most recently Portugal, a minimum of 6-padel courts is advised as a rule-of-thumb. This is now encouraged on all padel projects, in order for a project to achieve any kind of sustainability and or financial return.

 

Sweden has witnessed the quickest growth in recent years, where its estimated that only 10% of total padel courts are located in tennis venues. Padel developments have occurred at lightning speed, and its thanks to the many Swedish entrepreneurs and enthusiasts directly investing in courts, clubs, and even franchise business models. Many of which are being endorsed by celebrities. For example, the most recently created padel facility in Sweden just opened in its capital with 20-indoor courts!

Interestingly, the Swedish Padel Federation is now set with the challenging task of implementing governance and structure to match the overwhelming growth they’ve experienced in such a short period of time.

 

In France and Italy, tennis federations now govern the sport of padel, where it’s estimated that 75% of total padel courts are located at registered tennis venues. Over the last 5-years both countries have grown from having less than 100 courts to over 800 courts, respectively. Developments are happening organically; whereby tennis venues are proactively adding padel courts, which is creating a sustainable model for the foreseeable future.

 

Believe it or not there are now 21 tennis federations throughout Europe that have incorporated the governance of padel into their bylaws, and now actively support its growth.

 

Tennis federations view padel as a way to reduce attrition from tennis, providing a fun, social and dynamic alternative to the traditional racquet sport, similarly to how tennis venues over the last decade added gyms to retain and grow their membership base. This strategy presents a win-win scenario for both tennis and padel, with both sports working in harmony, simultaneously complimenting each other’s objectives for growth and sustainability. 

 

Padel is seen as the perfect solution for a tennis venue with structural challenges, as two to three padel courts can fit into the space of one tennis court and it’s surrounding space. Venues can therefore introduce a new revenue stream whilst maximising any unused space. We have already seen this happen in Spain, and similar trends are now spreading throughout Europe.

 

Due to the sport’s main characteristic of being easier to pick up than tennis at the beginner level, it boasts less barriers to entry. It’s also engaging for the entire family as it’s always played in doubles.

 

In Great Britain, the growth of padel has been somewhat slower than expected, however with padel recently being incorporated into the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), estimated growth suggests similar organic trends to that of other European countries.

 

The LTA are facilitating this organic growth through a Quick-Access Loan Scheme providing interest-free finance of up to £250k for padel projects. Such financing is a real game changer… and it is hoped that this will fast-track growth in order to catch up the likes of Belgium, Netherlands, France, and Italy.

 

A primary objective for the LTA over the next few years is to increase infrastructure i.e. growing the amount of courts in Great Britain. Encouraging existing tennis venues to partake in the innovative scope of padel is key to building a sustainable platform for the sport to grow. This will increase overall participation and generate a greater awareness for the sport as a whole.

 

Having the governance and structure in place prior to the sport growing is a huge advantage and will enable Great Britain to develop a sustainable platform for padel in the future. 

 

Article by:

Tom Murray

LTA Head of Padel