Padel, a sport that is good for youBy Shana Devleschoudere
37.000 players and a number that increases every week. Clubs and courts are coming out of nowhere... padel is booming! This great mix between tennis and squash is growing. But like in Spain, can padel overtake tennis in Belgium? Investigation...
To talk about the huge success of padel in the last few years is not a lie. It is really THE ideal sport, which arrives at the right time and takes advantage of the circumstances to make itself an essential part of everyday sports. The synthetic turf field and the shape of its cage make this sport adaptable to all types of weather. If we add the social character of the discipline (4 players on a small surface for long rallies) and the low service with a spoon (which requires less technique than in tennis), we have all the ingredients of a sport that charms "Mr. and Mrs. Everyman" .
In fact, padel was born in 1969, when a rich Mexican who did not have enough space in his garden to put a tennis court, introduced this variant. Through an acquaintance ofEnrique Corcuera, this sport also arrived in Spain where it took off. In 1974, thefirstEuropean PadelClubwas founded in Marbella and today, Spain has more than 5 million players, making it the most popular sport after soccer.
Argentina, another nation where the sport of snowshoeing is king, has 2 million members. When you know that there are currently 10 million practitioners in the world, you can imagine the importance of this discipline in these two countries.
In Belgium, if at the beginning of the year 2000 some courts were created on the right and on the left, the mayonnaise had not really taken. It was only later, in 2012, that thefirst clubin Ghent was created: Padel4U2. Then, in 2016, Tom De Sutter took an important part in the market by creating 3 clubs in Flanders.
If the Corona crisis has caused dramatic situations in many sports and tennis clubs, padel has managed to make a small place in the sun with a constant increase of new members. In the North of the country, while there were about 3.000 members 4 years ago, Tennis Vlaanderen can now boast of 27.000 members. And this season could see 1700 teams competing in interclubs on 580 courts.
In Wallonia, there were 124 courts last year for 281 teams in interclubs (out of 58 clubs). In Belgium, about 37.000 people have discovered padel and play it regularly. The little Dutch-speaking brother of Tennis Vlaanderen(the Flemish tennis federation) already has a very clear objective, to reach 100.000 members in 2024. With 'Start to padel Kids', it is clear that the target is very clear for these youngsters who have not yet taken the direction or the path to the cage. And nothing is left to chance, since there are more and more plans to optimize the national and international tournament structures.
Of the 250.000 members or affiliates of the Belgian tennis federation, it is considered today that a sixth of them play padel. This means that a new market is being created in areas such as textiles, balls, rackets, shoes... The prices of rackets vary between 50 and 300 euros (for the top of the line), and a tube of padel balls costs on average 6 euros. Extremely interesting and democratic prices for beginners.
In the new small world of padel, a few companies share the big part of the cake. These are Siux (a Spanish company founded in 2013 and growing steadily), Bullpadel (the largest seller of rackets active since 1995) and Star Vie (already active also for more than 20 years). But recently, the big traditional tennis brands are also trying to gain market share. We think of Adidas, Head and especially Babolat, represented in Belgium by Dominique Coen who is part of the Belgian top in the padel world. His experience on the court is obviously an added value for the brand which, with the Air Viper and Counter Viper, also tries to attract the amateur world.
In comparison, there are an estimated 87 million tennis players in the world. Squash has 20 million. But as the discipline is still unknown in some parts of the world, we can count on the emergence of new markets such as America, China, Russia, Australia and the rest of Asia. It remains to be seen whether the development of the discipline will be sufficient to bring us to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028...