Updated November 7, 2022

Padel, a sport that's good for you

By Shana Devleschoudere
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37,000 players and growing every week. Clubs and courts are springing up out of nowhere... padel is booming! This wonderful mix of tennis and squash is growing fast. But can padel, like tennis in Spain, overtake tennis in Belgium? Let's find out...

It's no lie to say that padel has been a huge success in recent years. It really is THE ideal sport, arriving at the right time and taking advantage of the circumstances to make its mark on everyday sport. The artificial turf pitch and the shape of its cage make this sport adaptable to all types of weather. Add to this the social nature of the sport (4 players on a small surface for long rallies) and the low spoon serve (which requires less technique than tennis), and you have all the ingredients for a sport that appeals to "Mr. and Mrs. Everyman ".

In fact, padel was born in 1969, when a wealthy Mexican who didn't have enough space in his garden for a tennis court, introduced this variant. Through an acquaintance ofEnrique Corcuera, the sport also arrived in Spain, where it took off. In 1974, the1stEuropean PadelClubwas founded in Marbella, and today Spain boasts over 5 million Padel players, making it the most popular sport after soccer.

Argentina, another nation where snowshoeing is king, has 2 million members. When you consider that there are currently 10 million snowshoe players in the world, you can imagine the importance of this discipline in these 2 countries.

In Belgium, although in the early 2000s a few courts sprang up left and right, the mayonnaise hadn't really taken off. It was only later, in 2012, that the1st clubwas created in Ghent: padel4U2. Then, in 2016, Tom De Sutter took an important part in the market by creating 3 clubs in Flanders.

100,000 members

While the Corona crisis has caused drama in many sports and tennis clubs, padel has managed to carve out a small place in the sun with a steady increase in new members. In the north of the country, Tennis Vlaanderen now boasts 27,000 members, compared with 3,000 4 years ago. And this season could see 1,700 teams competing in interclub matches on 580 courts.

In Wallonia, last year there were 124 courts for 281 interclub teams (out of 58 clubs). In Belgium, some 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 by 2024. With 'Start to padel Kids', it's clear that the target is just right for those youngsters who haven't yet taken the direction or path of the cage. What's more, nothing is left to chance, as there are increasing plans to optimize national and international tournament structures.

Exploratory market

Of the 250,000 members or affiliates of the Belgian tennis federation, one-sixth now play padel. This means that a new market is being created in areas such as textiles, balls, rackets, shoes... Racket prices range from 50 to 300 euros (for the top of the range), and a tube of padel balls costs an average of 6 euros. Extremely attractive, democratic prices for beginners.

In the new small world of padel, a few companies share the lion's share of the cake. These are Siux (a Spanish company founded in 2013 and still growing), Bullpadel (the biggest racquet seller active since 1995) and Star Vie (also active for over 20 years). But recently, the big traditional tennis brands have also been trying to grab market share. These include Adidas, Head and, above all, Babolat, represented in Belgium by Dominique Coen, who is also one of Belgium's top padel players. His on-court experience is bound to add value for the brand, which with the Air Viper and Counter Viper is also trying to attract the amateur world.

By way of comparison, there are an estimated 87 million tennis players in the world. Squash has 20 million. So, with 10 million padel players, there's still a lot of work to be done... But as the discipline is still little-known 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 Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028...