Padel is a sport where its acceleration is as much remarkable as it is questionable. Played by over 25 million people worldwide in over 90 countries, its meteoric rise from a niche, relatively unknown sport to being on the verge of Olympic recognition is astounding. Deemed the fastest growing sport of all time, padel benefits from its easy accessibility, its social nature, as well as its overwhelming health benefits. But what does this mean for padel in the UK?
Being well-established in the padel powerhouses of Spain, the Nordics, as well as Latin America, padel’s global meteoric rise hasn’t yet transpired to its full forest-like effect within the UK. With courts limited depending on geographical locations, as well awareness of the sport not being promoted on the scale of other countries, it still has a fair way to go to truly take off in the UK.
In order to grow on a mass global scale and be recognised in the same capacity as other racket sports such as tennis, padel will undoubtedly need to conquer the colossal markets of the US and Asia. However, the UK is seen as a key player in padel’s quest to spread all over the world. But realistically, how can padel reach the masses in the UK, especially in a nation dominated by sports such as football, rugby, cricket, and tennis to name but a few?
Laying The Groundwork
Despite the UK falling behind most European nations in catching the infectious padel craze, the sport still has a solid foundation. Wales built their first ever padel venue in January 2022, whilst a 72% increase in playing courts across the nation highlights the expansion and hunger for more. On average, 25% of people have heard of padel in the UK with google search terms forever rising. The latest participation data shows there are 89,000 active players, with around 15,000 participating each month, whilst the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) predict that over 3000 people play padel more than once a week. With the current growth trajectory continuing, it’s predicted padel will reach over 300,000 active players by the end of 2022. Moreover, the LTA plan to add another 50 courts throughout the UK before the year ends.
Franchise chains such as Game4Padel, backed by tennis legend Sir Andy Murray, also signal the impending growth of padel. Worth over £18 million, the investment opportunities within the sport are incredibly attractive, particularly as its still within the infant stages of development and recognition. The padel industry in the UK is currently made up of small, yet well-established brands and distributors, proving from a business sense this is a whole new market to tap into. With the current growth trajectory continuing, it’s predicted padel will reach over 300,000 active players in the UK by the end of 2022.
With famous faces such as David Beckham, Jurgen Klopp, Bradley Walsh, Peter Crouch, and even Dragon’s Den Peter Jones, declaring their adoration for the sport it certainly won’t harm padel’s image.
Taking The Next Steps
If following the already proven success of padel in nations such as Sweden, the UK could become a huge global hub for the sport. This largely depends on the number of courts available for people to play. Only three years ago, there were a mere 100 padel courts in Sweden, whereas now there are over 800 and half a million active players which is constantly increasing in numbers. If padel is embraced in the UK with the same magnetism as in Sweden, the possibilities are endless.
One solution in extending the outreach of padel courts to the masses is through the implementation of pop-up courts to drive participation. Getting the permission, funding, and then constructing a high quality padel court is admittedly a stumbling block for many venues and people wanting to get into the sport. Companies such as InstantPadel offers courts which are assembled in just 4-8 hours, avoiding the expensive and extensive planning required to install traditional padel courts. These courts can be disassembled and can be built both indoors or outdoors with the only requirement being flat land. They can even be assembled by regular customers or installed by sporting venues, as a way to bring padel to a whole new audience.
Of course, awareness is also key to padel accelerating its growth. More education and playing opportunities should be prioritised by the LTA, whether this be through grassroots community organisations, or even through schools and youth programs. This will help consolidate padel’s future by garnering interest in the younger generation, who ultimately are the way forward in order to progress the sport.
If padel does this, then there’s no doubting that the sport can reach whole new levels of popularity in the UK. The future of UK padel looks promising and on the brink of eruption, however it’s up to the public to decide whether the sport becomes a household staple or a niche pastime. The next few years will be indicative of padel’s lasting legacy in the UK, lets just hope the match can be lit and padel’s burgeoning potential fulfils expectations.