15 years ago, the Padel was a minor sport, played by only a few thousand people. Today there are nearly 2 million practitioners in Spain, including around 100,000 licensees, becoming the most played sport in the country behind football and in front of tennis. How to explain this superb growth in Spain but also worldwide?
A little history…
1969, Acapulco in Mexico. Enrique Corcuera, an entrepreneur, decides to build a tennis court in his garden. Problem, he doesn't have enough room behind his home. He then decides to create a plot of 20m by 10m smaller and to build walls around to avoid getting the ball when his wife misses his blows. The padel was born. Imported in 1974 in Spain by his friend, Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe, the Padel quickly became a popular sport in Hispanic high society, notably in Marbella where the first official club was born. Subsequently introduced into Argentina and then throughout Latin America, the popularity of the padel progresses slowly but surely in the Spanish -speaking world. He experienced a very big growth in Buenos Aires where he becomes the second national sport behind football.
The first rackets of Padel and are inventor, Enrique Corcuera
The big evolution since the year 2000
The early 2000s was the pivotal moment of the Padel's life with the high point of the creation of the professional circuit, the World Padel Tour in 2005. Thanks to the establishment of WPT, more and more people are interested At the Padel, and the influence becomes more and more international. Sponsored by the largest manufacturers of Padel rackets like Bullpadel or Nox, the circuit is increasingly growing and the more “traditional” racket brands like Head, Babolat or Adidas are sponsoring more and more players.
Since then, it has been an exponential growth for the padel, even going beyond tennis in the most practiced sports classification in Spain. Professional tournaments bring together thousands of people, and more and more clubs are emerging, attached to tennis clubs or not.
The reasons for success
But what are the reasons for this success as sudden as surprising? First, the ease of implantation. Padel plot is 20m by 10m while a tennis court can make up to doubles depending on the decline. The small municipalities are therefore more inclined to set up a padel land available to their inhabitants. Padel is also more accessible to everyone, less physically demanding. The youngest but especially seniors can therefore play it without fear of serious injuries, the average age proves it: 39 years.
In addition, the concept of the padel is also very friendly. Clubs are often linked to a bar or restaurant, to share a beer or a meal, before or after the game. During the pandemic, clubs even took market share at the bars which closed them earlier. More than a sport, the padel is a lifestyle specific to Spain.
The COVVID has also participated in this rise in power in the past 2 years. Being a contactless sport played outside, the padel was one of the less impacted sports by the various government restrictions. Athletes can no longer practice their sport naturally turned to the padel, which has greatly helped to gain popularity but also in number of practitioners.
Finally, we can mention the WPT which is very successful and most of which are Spanish or Argentinians. As we know, being represented internationally by an athlete in your country also helps to increase the popularity of sport. The Spanish rooms are often filled, as at the final master of 2019-2020-2021 in Madrid where around 10,000 people were gathered in a full-cracked room.
Master Finals in Madrid
And in France ?
In France, the padel is a few years late, but also experienced strong progress. 150,000 practitioners for approximately 15,000 licensees distributed in 411 clubs across the country. Because of the less sunny climate, some clubs have opted for short cutlery but the desire to create a place of conviviality is always present with, too, bars or restaurants that accompany the land.
Another growth factor, many professionals from other sports, including tennis put themselves at the Padel. Like Alix Collombon, former professional tennis player, now 20 world player. Unlike the Spanish, France does not have a Padel federation, a section specific to sport is attached to the FFT. The Padel therefore has the support of a large federation, with experience and means that can help it grow serenely in the French sports landscape. But will she make the right decisions to help sport develop? The future will tell ..
Alix Collombon, world number 20
Another sign of the development of the padel is the acquisition of WPT TV rights by Canal Plus for the next 5 years. The first broadcast was a success with correct audiences for the Final Master 2021. In addition to the French broadcast, Canal Plus will broadcast on all its international channels. Padel goes up, around the world.
Passed from minor sport, little played with phenomenon in the Spanish -speaking world, the Padel continues its expansion in other countries including France. With the global decline of tennis, the discipline has every chance of becoming racket sport number 1 in the future.