A Better deal for padel
A deal struck between the UK’s largest operator of local authority leisure facilities and a major padel company could prove a turning point in transforming padel participation in this country.
Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) is partnering with padel facility developer/operator Game4Padel to deliver the sport to ‘many’ of GLL’s 250 sites operated under the ‘Better’ brand.
Work is already underway at the first site – West View Leisure in Preston – where two Instantpadel courts have been installed ahead of submitting plans for two covered courts, an operational model the organisation plans to roll-out in other locations.
Gosling Sports Park in Welwyn Garden City, which has an annual footfall of one million visitors and one of the largest tennis centre in the UK, Odd Down Sports Ground in Bath and Delta Tennis Centre in Swindon are earmarked to follow Preston. GLL’s ideal is for three covered courts at each venue, with up to 100 Better locations being considered for the padel plan at present.
Such numbers would more than double the UK’s current padel court provision, delivering the sport to new communities and audiences in rural and urban locations. Many of the Better centres already have tennis centres on site, making them a perfect fit for adding padel.
Andrew Clark, Head of Sport & Aquatics at GLL, is ‘genuinely excited’ about introducing a new sport to the leisure centre sector: “Everything we have seen would suggest that padel will be huge,” he told The Bandeja. “We really want our centres to make the difference in local areas and believe that padel could be the glue that unities our communities.”
Already Better customers are getting excited about a new racket sport that isn’t tennis, according to Andrew, who believes that padel will be a ‘gateway’ sport into health and fitness for many because of its social appeal. He said: “Post Covid the bounce back of members returning has been really good but we’ve found that some of the most attractive leisure activities are those that you can build a community around – people have craved personal interaction.
“Padel is a really good opportunity to build a community and transfer people from other activities – and an opportunity to get rackets in the hands of people who don’t play tennis,” added Andrew, a convert to padel who has introduced family, friends and colleagues to the sport.
GLL, which operates its centres as social enterprises on behalf of local authorities, has been looking at padel for around a year. Following research into the sector’s key players, discussions with the LTA and tennis centres partner Wilson, Game4Padel was selected to build and operate its courts.
Michael Gradon, Game4Padel co-founder and CEO, said they were ‘delighted’ to have been chosen as GLL’s padel partner: “This is an extremely exciting development as it will rapidly grow the sport in the UK. GLL has a user base of active people who, we believe, are prime candidates for trying out this new game.”
The company, which has nine venues open and many more planned, has former world No 1 tennis player Andy Murray as an investor. He described the partnership as ‘great’, adding: “There is huge demand for padel, with many people unable to access courts locally. This partnership should really help meet that demand, and quickly.”